In a previous post (see: XIFIN and vRad Partner to Pursue an Integrated Diagnostics Business Model), I discussed the new partnership between Xifin and vRad. Xifin had previously purchased PathCentral with its cloud-based AP-LIS and telepathology consultation network (see: XIFIN acquires pathologist software developer PathCentral). This latter product is now called ProNet. I had the opportunity recently to view a demo of ProNet with Joe Nollar, director of product development for Xifin. This provided me with an opportunity to think about some of the business opportunities that such a network would make available for surgical pathologists, some of which Xifin is already discussing with current and potential clients. This idea will be the main thrust of this note.
It occurred to me that one could roughly divide the telepathology consultations into three segments: (1) esoteric surgical pathology consultations for which the requesting pathologist is seeking the interpretation of a "marquee" consultant with an established record of expertise or, alternatively, the services of a prestigious pathology department; (2) routine histopathology work generated by a smaller hospital temporarily or permanently lacking a pathologist with work sent either to an intra-system pathologist(s) or to some outside consultant for a standard fee; (3) philanthropic surgical pathology services such as those rendered to hospitals in developing countries with a lack of pathologists and lab services and presumably without any, or very modest, reimbursement.
As I understand the current telepathology environment, a number of a academic pathology departments such as UPMC have developed one-to-one telepathology services, often with a single hospital abroad or perhaps linked to a for-profit health system in a country like China. Such relationships are designed to serve the more affluent healthcare consumers who are seeking U.S. expertise for complex cases. Xifin will make their ProNet network available to any qualified individual or pathology department in the U.S. Joe Nollar of Xifin mentioned to me that ProNet can also accommodate branded telepathology services whereby a prestigious academic department would market a wide range of telepathology services and then triage cases, as received, to the most appropriate pathologist on the staff. By using ProNet, the department avoids the capital expenditure of developing its own one-off network and takes advantage of the experience of the company and its software. Xifin may also be able, at some point, to provide marketing services to its departmental clients.
I need to think more about the opportunities that ProNet offers to a variety of pathologists. Generally speaking, it would seem to offer a way to optimize the efficiency of the allocation of pathology services on a global basis. Most importantly, it also provides a powerful financial incentive to both established surgical pathology consultants and also to younger practitioners to become skilled in digital pathology in order to both expand their career opportunities as well as to generate revenue for their home departments. I have been waiting for such a development whereby junior faculty members demand the deployment of digital pathology in their departments over the objections of senior members who may be lukewarm about the technology.