By Lauren Dubinsky and Gus Iversen
Royal Philips is taking its commitment to digital pathology to new heights with the acquisition of a young and successful Belfast-based startup called PathXL.
As pathology labs are challenged to offer new diagnostic tests for precision medicine while improving throughput and efficiency, Philips believes this acquisition will ultimately help providers make the switch to digital image-based workflows.
Creating a future without glass slides
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"Digital pathology can help the pathologist to share, discuss, and coordinate care at — for example — tumor boards," Steve Klink, director of communications and senior press officer at Philips, told HCB News.
It's costly to ship glass slides for a second opinion and the time that's required accounts for 41 percent of delays in cancer diagnosis, according to the National Patient Safety Agency. With a digital pathology workflow, it only takes 60 seconds for a glass slide to be scanned and ready for viewing at 40x magnification.
Philips CEO Frans van Houten has stated the company's digital pathology business has been "doubling every year," according to Reuters
"We're acquiring a company that has deep clinical knowledge and technology to analyze cancerous cells," said Van Houten, adding that the partnership "will widen the capabilities of our pathology business and make it even more attractive for pathologists to adopt."
Although the price of the acquisition has not been disclosed, a Philips spokesman said its digital pathology sales would pass "several tens of millions" of euros in sales this year, including the acquisition, according to that report.
Traditional pathologists are an increasingly rare breed
The need for pathology solutions is growing at a time when capable slide interpreters are dwindling. From 2008 to 2013 there was a 10.4 percent decrease in active physicians in pathology, and 60.7 percent of active physicians in pathology are age 55 and older, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
"In the near future there will be not enough pathologists globally to meet the demand," said Klink. "Digitization of pathology workflow can streamline the diagnostic process, enhance and elevate the sharing of information and help to maximize resources and workload distribution by creating a virtually connected team."
Last year, Philips helped LabPON, the largest pathology laboratory in the Netherlands, become the first in the world to completely transition to digital pathology for its histopathology cases. Philips has also partnered with other institutions including Mount Sinai in New York and Genomic Health in California to enhance their pathology workflows.