In Part 2 of our inaugural episode, CEO David West continues to explore the importance of breaking the pathology status quo. He speaks to overcoming common challenges and the downsides of not making the transition to digital before offering his views on what to look for in a digital pathology partner. David concludes by sharing some helpful resources.
Listen or read the full transcript below.
Bruce Hall, Host (00:10): Welcome to Proscia’s “Zoomed In” podcast series, where you hear the latest trends in AI-enabled digital pathology.
BH (00:23): Welcome to part two of our inaugural “Zoomed In” podcast on breaking the digital pathology status quo, with our guest, David West, CEO of Proscia. In part one, David discussed the status quo of the pathology discipline, identified the many opportunities and benefits in adopting digital pathology, and explained some of the factors that are holding us back. Let’s pick up the conversation. David, last time we were discussing the challenges in adopting a digital pathology approach. What other challenges should we be thinking about?
David West, CEO, Proscia (00:52): Another challenge that organizations might encounter is the IT burden and the upfront financial investment required to handle the storage requirements of digital pathology. This is often significantly overestimated, and with the appropriate storage capabilities and image life cycle management policies, the IT burden is much, much lower than our initial estimates often indicate. So it’s a matter of working with the right partner to understand those costs and do it in the right way that maximizes access and speed, scalability, security, and costs. Another big challenge is the fear of choosing the wrong scanner or the wrong technology, and this is very normal. I think there’s always a bit of fear when it comes to big change. One best practice here is define your requirements upfront to evaluate each vendor using the same criteria. You should also think about choosing solutions that will support your needs today and down the road. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say that we’re going to start somewhere, and we might want to grow from there.
BH (01:57): And there was one more pretty significant challenge you had in mind. Correct?
DW (02:00): We’ll hear this a lot: “I’m fine with using whatever viewer came with my scanner.” It’s a big mistake that we see a lot. It might seem like you’re transforming your operations by introducing a scanner and a digital image viewer. And almost always, we find that you’ll soon discover just this viewer doesn’t support all of your needs. Scaling your digital operation means having much more sophisticated software capabilities than just a point-level viewer solution. Integration and other things really matter.
BH (02:30): So we’ve talked about the benefits of going to a digital pathology solution. What are the downsides of not moving to digital pathology? Of not breaking the status quo?
DW (02:40): It’s another great question. And this is always the hidden costs of not acting. Here are some of the things that we’re seeing today and we’re going to continue to see worsen. First and foremost, I think about losing talent. Your most forward-thinking pathologists or staff might get frustrated or leave. People want to work for organizations on the cutting edge. Pathology is supposed to be a cutting edge field. We’re already seeing this, already seeing great diagnostic laboratories and academic institutions and biopharma organizations that are failing to invest in, and they’re losing talent as a product of that. You could be losing time, too. It takes time to get things right, and if your competitors are building the infrastructure to enable more efficient business models, it might be too late by the time you want to go digital. Then you’ll find yourself losing business to more innovative practices that are able to expand their reach, move faster and faster, and deliver higher quality, faster, better service.
BH (03:30): What other downsides should organizations be thinking about?
DW (03:33): You might be losing your brand equity. This is something that can erode over time. Digital pathology is leading to improved patient outcomes and accelerating research breakthroughs. Organizations that are able to do this will continue to emerge as the leaders. Those that don’t do this will fall behind. We’ve seen this in every other industry, not only losing business, but also impacting how they’re perceived by their peers. I think you’ll see perhaps reduced quality and expertise. Digital pathology enables subspecialty access in ways that you cannot accomplish with brick-and-mortar business models. Some of these challenges are exacerbated given the COVID situation that we’re dealing with right now. Many, many laboratories that have limited to no digital footprint were unable to react to the changes that have come as a result of this very challenging situation, and their peers that had a digital footprint were able to react very, very quickly.
BH (04:26): David, when we think about digital pathology, the practitioners or lab professionals or researchers themselves may be resistant to changing the status quo, or there may be others in the organization that may be resistant to changing the status quo. What do you say to these folks to help them embrace the full shift to digital pathology?
DW (04:43): At this point, the first thing you have to do is focus on the inevitability of going digital. This data is too valuable, and we live in an era where our entire world operates on data-driven business models. Not going digital means losing out and getting left behind. So you have to start with that as your fundamental pillar. Once you have that in place, you need to lay out concrete successes and really embrace the process. You’re not going to get this right, right off the bat, and every organization is different. The other thing is set a reasonable timeline. Going digital involves huge change, and we’re not just talking about technology adoption. This is change management, and that takes time, sometimes a few years to realize a meaningful ROI. Finally, work with a trusted partner that can guide you on your journey. These organizations that are using digital pathology are really great at doing what they do best. There are partners out there that are really great when it comes to digital pathology adoption and the technology that can help you.
BH (05:38): That’s a great point you made there at the end about the partner. What should someone look for in a partner?
DW (05:43): There’s two aspects to consider. Number one is the solution. Number two is the team that supports that. So, let’s start with the first one. With respect to the solution, I think about flexibility. It gives you freedom in terms of configuration of workflows, roles, permissions, as well as deployment options, hardware, and software that you can use with it, trust to support a variety of stakeholders, not just the pathologist or the financial stakeholders, but the lab operations and even IT so that you can fully expand your digital operations. I think a lot about interoperability. The system should be able to integrate with your lab ecosystem, generally speaking, to help centralize pathology operations in this virtual or digital environment. That means being hardware-agnostic or scanner-agnostic so it can easily ingest images from scanners you might already have. It should also mean infrastructure agnosticity, and perhaps most importantly, laboratory information system interoperability. That’s totally key if you want this to be successful. I think about future-proofing your solution, so a solution that can offer investment protection and meet your current requirements as well as your future needs. And I think a lot about security and quality. That goes without saying. Data privacy and security and quality are of utmost concern in healthcare. That’s totally key.
BH (07:04): So those are some great hallmarks of the solution, David. What else should organizations be thinking about when selecting a partner?
DW (07:12): So, let’s go to the other side of this, which is the team. I think about working with a team that views digital pathology adoption as a journey. Not someone or not a company that is trying to flip you a box. Work with a team that can share best practices, provide guidance, and that’s in it with you for the long haul. It can help support your implementation, help with configurations data migration, etc. Your team should provide support after implementation, especially as you get up and running. Again, I can’t stress this enough that’s where going digital really happens. It happens after you’ve installed the scanner. It happens in change management.
BH (07:45): Well, that sounds great, David. This has been some wonderful information on digital pathology, breaking the status quo, and moving forward in this endeavor. Where would you suggest listeners go to learn more about the digital pathology discipline, getting started, and breaking the status quo?
DW (08:01): You know, at this point, digital pathology is very much mainstream. So, there is a ton of information out there, everywhere. And you’ll see labs and research organizations that have done it. I’d look to them. I’d look to your peers. I’d start with the Digital Pathology Association that’s a great starting point. The DPA, if you’re not familiar with it, is an organization made up of pathologist, scientists, technologists, and industry representatives focused on advancing digital pathology, helping make that easier, helping breaking the status quo easier. It does everything from sharing best practices to collaborating with the FDA on regulatory issues. It’s really a valuable organization in our space. And I’d encourage anyone, not just to look at what the DPA is doing, but if you’re so inclined, to get involved. I also encourage you to check out some of the DPA’s webinars, blogs, and newsfeed, along with its other resources. It’s really a great digital pathology overview. So, you can find that all on their website. It’s digitalpathologyassociation.org. They’re also on Twitter. There’s a great Twitter community in pathology, on LinkedIn as well. On Twitter, they’re @DPAtweet, I believe. Our team at Proscia also creates a lot of resources, no matter where you are in your digital journey, starting with this podcast is one. You can always find that on our website. That’s proscia.com, P R O S C I A.com. We’re always here to start a conversation, so don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help.
BH (09:16): David. I think this has been a wonderful inaugural episode of the “Zoomed In” podcast series, and thanks again for all this great information. Can you share a little bit more about what listeners can expect from future episodes of “Zoomed In?”
DW (09:27): Well that seems fitting since this is our first episode, doesn’t it? Just like today’s episode, “Zoomed In” is focused on helping you embrace the shift to digital technology and leverage digital pathology, not just to go from microscope to image, but to leverage all the applications that this enables. In future episodes, you’ll expect to hear more on how to break the status quo and drive change at your organization. Hopefully, we set the stage for that today. Think about best practices for adopting and using digital pathology, tips for evaluating solutions, and even some case studies and success stories, which I think are incredibly valuable. And, to keep it exciting, we’ll feature guests from the space. We’ll bring on some digital pathology adopters, who have really done this at scale and are using digital pathology to improve case review and accelerate research breakthroughs. We’ll also look forward to welcoming our industry partners to share their views.
BH (10:20): Well, I know I’m looking forward to those future episodes, but that’s all the time we have for today, David. Thanks so much again for all of your insights.
DW (10:37): Thank you, Bruce.