Mar 19, 2013 (08:03 AM EDT)
Pathology Network Offers Global Remote Diagnostic Services

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Telemedicine Tools That Are Transforming Healthcare
Telemedicine Tools That Are Transforming Healthcare
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A new telemedicine network purports to be the first cloud-based, open platform for pathologists to consult with each other and share images in a secure environment.

The PathCentral Pathology Network, a product of pathology software vendor PathCentral, Irvine, Calif., launched this month. The network combines digital imaging, a remotely hosted laboratory information system, and social media.

"Pathologists all over the globe can seek consultations with each other," explained Dr. Gregory Henderson, recently retained as part-time chief medical advisor for PathCentral Pathology Network. Henderson, president of Pacific Pathology Partners, Silverdale, Wash., also founded and runs PathForceDx, a startup digital pathology networking company that facilitates online consultations. His company is a member of the PathCentral network.

[ Telemedicine is bringing relief to some home-bound patients. Read Telemedicine Improves Health Of Diabetics, Research Says. ]

As chief medical advisor, Henderson is charged with building a network of consulting pathologists and developing a training and mentoring program in digital pathology.

Pacific Pathology Partners will be a pilot site for the PathCentral Pathology Network, Henderson added. "It's a powerful tool, but there's some refinement going on," he said of the nascent network.

PathCentral said the network will allow physicians from around the world to upload digital images and case files for review by remote pathologists. PathCentral Pathology Network clients also are able to consult live with diagnostic specialists.

This technology will allow pathology practices in the U.S. and other technologically advanced nations to earn ancillary revenue from remote consultations, but also expand diagnostic services to underserved communities around the world. "IT doesn't cut across all providers equally," Henderson told InformationWeek Healthcare.

The lack of access to diagnoses is a public-health challenge in many regions, according to Henderson, as is a shortage of pathologists in emerging economies, such as the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. "The belief is there is a pretty high demand," Henderson said.

A company statement said the network also had "humanitarian" potential. Henderson reported that at least 10% of PathForceDx's work is pro bono.

Henderson said that PathForceDx is the first company to practice diagnostic medicine remotely. Teleradiology has been popular for years, as has remote intensive care, but there is not much available in telepathology.

Since 2008, Omnyx, a joint venture of GE Healthcare and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), has been digitizing lab samples. Although initially touted as a way to speed up diagnoses, a disclaimer on the Omnyx website says the system is intended for research only, not diagnostic medicine.

As large healthcare providers test the limits, many smaller groups question the value. Also in the new, all-digital Big Data Analytics issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Ask these six questions about natural language processing before you buy. (Free with registration.)