GE Healthcare And UPMC Launch Joint Venture To Digitize Pathology Images - InformationWeek

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GE Healthcare And UPMC Launch Joint Venture To Digitize Pathology Images

Onmyx aims to get pathologists to abandon glass slides and microscopes for the digital technology it says will improve diagnoses.

GE Healthcare and UPMC think there's a lot of potential to assist pathologists in making more accurate and faster diagnoses by digitizing images from the 1.5 billion glass pathology slides that pathologists look at every year in the U.S, says Cartwright. That's as long as the digitization process itself doesn't slow the pathologists down.

For instance, current digital pathology technology requires about 3 to 5 minutes to scan each glass slide's image, says Cartwright.

However, most pathologists only spend on average 30 seconds looking at a specimen on each slide under the microscope. So, using scanning processes that take six to 10 times longer to digitize an image than just looking at the specimen through a microscope doesn't make much sense to pathologists.

"Tissue on a glass slide contains more bits and bytes than a CAT scan," says Michalopoulos, contrasting the complexity and storage needs of pathology images to radiology images, which largely have been digitized at medical centers like UPMC for many years.

Over the last decade or so, GE has played a leading role in medical imaging and radiology systems, including digital mammography systems, of which UPMC's Magee-Womens Hospital was one of the first customers in 2000. UPMC itself also played an early role in digital medical imaging innovations with in-house developments -- including enterprise picture archiving and communication technology that UPMC spun out in the late 1990s to launch Stentor, a vendor of medical imaging systems that in 2005 was sold to Philips for $280 million.

Now, the two organizations are joining up to propel major change in "the next 'ology,'" says Cartwright, transforming the way pathologists work and collaborate.

GE Healthcare says Omnyx developments will reduce the scanning time of each slide to 15 or 30 seconds. And once those images are scanned in, computer software can help tackle other chores that take up bigger chunks of pathologists' time, including calculations about the size of tumors -- and how embedded they are in nearby tissue -- based on images of the thin tissue slivers that appear on the slide.

Also, by digitizing pathology images, glass slides would no longer need to be transported for secondary consultations -- digitized pathology images can be shared electronically, the same way many radiologists today share digital images, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans.

UMPC already uses some in-house and third-party digital pathology imaging technology to allow UPMC doctors in the United States to collaborate with physicians at a UPMC-partner transplant hospital in Paloma, Italy. The pact with GE Healthcare -- which has global reach with its medical gear -- will also help UPMC expand its international presence, says Cartwright.

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