I was mildly surprised to learn from an executive of a digital pathology company that he considers software development as the core competency of his company. I guess that my attention was focused on the development of scanners by them and I had underestimated the software side of the business. I have also been influenced by my opinion that the engineering and scientific culture of the IVDs has limited their competency in lab software. However and given the emergence of algorithms as a key product line for both BioImagene and Aperio, I now accept the fact that these are primarily software companies (see: A Blueprint for Blending Anatomic and Clinical Pathology).
So why is this important? Please read on. A recent article in the Dark Daily discusses the digital pathology industry, describing it as entering a new phase (see: Three Trends Now Fueling Wider Adoption of Digital Pathology). Below is an excerpt from it:
- The desire by some pathologists who already use digital pathology in niche settings to expand the use of digital pathology within their laboratories to partial or full adoption.
- A heightened interest by laboratory information system (LIS) vendors to integrate their software with digital image management (pathology PACS) software, as a way to improve their competitive advantage.
- Widespread support for the newly formed Digital Pathology Association (DPA) a not-for-profit group comprising industry and non-industry members, and its mission to focus on education, best practices, and increasing awareness....
The LIS industry has never been able to develop an industry-wide trade association but has rather focused on the development of user groups as a type of "outreach" strategy. I put this term in quotes because communicating with customers doesn't get these companies too far outside the box. The article above mentions the development of the Digital Pathology Association and also the need to integrate digital pathology information and workflow into LISs and AP-LISs. If you accept my premise above that digital pathology is primarily software oriented, then the DPA is the first ever lab software business consortium.
Added evidence for the maturity of this segment of the pathology and lab medicine industry is that Pathology Visions digital pathology conference has evolved from an Aperio-launched user group to very successful vendor-neural event, another variant of this broad industry-wide theme promoted by the DPA. LIS companies, prior to this apparent catalytic effect of the digital pathology companies, suffered from a case of arrested development, never being able to get past their user group phase. I am now working on a lecture describing the various types of "integration" that are now at play in the clinical labs such as AP with CP and pathology/lab medicine into radiology. Let's hope that the DPA and digital pathology are signs that we are rapidly moving in this direction.