Digital transformation in pathology means more than replacing microscopes with computer screens. While much of the digital pathology community remains focussed on technology development and future AI applications, real-world practicing pathologists need to focus on how to actually apply these new technologies in their clinical practice. PathNet is a national network of community-based pathology groups, working cooperatively, sharing overhead and applying digital tools to improve each of our practices.
The seeds of the PathNet concept were planted over a decade ago when Dr. Jared Szymanski and I naively took a huge financial risk, purchasing a very expensive whole slide imaging system. Our spouses were understandably NOT happy with our choice to dip into our personal savings accounts. Turns out, they had a right to be angry. It was a terrible investment. After spending a few months validating whole-slide-image based biopsy interpretation, we came to a very painful conclusion.
It turned out that whole-slide-imagining was a whole-lot-more expensive than just waiting a day for the slides to be sent in the mail.
We are not the only pathologists in the world who learned this lesson the hard way. Many large hospital labs in the United States have made similar investments into whole slide imaging systems. But even after almost two decades of WSI capability, not one of these labs has actually converted to fully digital practice.
Why not? It has been our decade-long quest to understand the complicated reasons for this. Our attempt to answer this question moved us to begin working with scientists and engineers, and ultimately to establish LUMEA. LUMEA creates practical workflow solutions which make digital pathology practical, profitable and, from our perspective, fun! For a few years, we practiced within LUMEA’s digital histology lab. But, as LUMEA grew to support many labs, it became necessary to spin off the LUMEA clinical lab, and so PathNet was born.
It’s been ten LONG years. We are grateful that our wives ultimately forgave us for wasting our families’ savings on that original useless WSI imaging system.
We are grateful for colleagues and investors who stuck with us through this unexpected Odyssey, as we formed new companies, built new technologies, and created new business models at LUMEA. The engineers, doctors, nurses, lab scientists, business minds, students and others in that company created a rich digital environment which empowers Dr. Szymanski and I to finally realize our original dream of digital practice. Beyond their role in redefining how we practice, LUMEA’s creative, diligent drive to solve the digital pathology puzzle will positively impact pathologists and patients all around the world.
As proud as we are to have played a role in technology development, we are doctors first.
Ten years ago we started down a path to improve the way we care for our patients. Our early experiences developing and applying the new tools of digital practice uniquely qualify us to reach out to kindred, forward facing pathologists, who want to join us in moving pathology forward. Like it or not, pathology’s digital transformational moment has arrived. So, whether you are someone who eagerly embraces change, or someone who faces such moments with technophobic trepidation, your gifts and experience are needed. Working with PathNet we can improve the practice of pathology through safe, efficient digital transformation.