For a few years, an evolution has been occurring in the field of information technology whereby software is provided as a service rather than as a purchased product. This is approach has been referred to in the past as SaaS (software as a service). In parallel with this development has been the transition to cloud computing whereby applications and data storage are managed by a network of servers accessed via the web rather than on servers located within the enterprise. It's clear to me, that digital pathology, at some time in the near future, will be provided as a service rather than as a product. As evidence for this statement, here's what BioImagene has to say on its web site about Virtuoso, its software product, and its pricing strategy:
BioImagene’s Virtuoso digital pathology application software works with BioImagene’s iScan family of slide scanners to provide an end-to-end digital pathology solution. The total digital pathology solution allows users to view, manage, archive, and analyze digital images. Virtuoso also allows users to produce customized digital reports and collaborate with other pathologists or oncologists in real-time....Virtuoso is a web-based application that enables the various users, e.g.: pathologists histotechnologists, lab administrators, and clinicians, to improve their efficiency within the anatomical pathology workflow....BioImagene’s digital pathology solutions require no upfront capital expenditure due to its comprehensive pay-per-click pricing model that makes it easy for pathologists and laboratories to acquire them..
Note the reference to a web-based solution and also to a pricing model based on pay-per-click. This is sometimes referred to as the "taxi-meter" approach. A ride in a taxi is a service and not a product. However, when considering digital pathology as an end-to-end pathology solution, there is a key component that is not now provided by vendors: inexpensive storage of the large image files that are the byproduct of any digital pathology system. Look for a total basket-of-services to be offered by digital pathology vendors such as BioImagene and Aperio at some time in the near future including storage of image files.
In a previous post, I discussed the possibility of healthcare carving out its own unique remote storage capabilities that I referred to as a "vertical cloud" (see: A Closer Look at the Vertical Cloud in Healthcare Computing). The digital pathology cloud storage would be an important component of this vertical cloud. There is currently at least one company, Insite One, that offers remote cloud storage for PACS files as well as other healthcare data. The company describes its archiving and storage services in the following way on its web site:
InSite One's patented InDex storage management services deliver a powerful suite of intelligent, standards-based solutions that adhere to DICOM, HL7 and XDS (cross enterprise document sharing) IHE standards and protocols. This on-demand, vendor neutral object repository ensures rapid retrieval of your clinical information throughout the enterprise. Data is retained for legal-life in a HIPAA enabled environment and archived in Tier-4 mirrored geographically dispersed datacenters.