The cost of implementing digital pathology can vary widely depending on several factors, including the scale of the operation, the specific technology chosen, and the location and resources of the healthcare institution. While there are material upfront costs associated with digital pathology, consider the potential long-term benefits, such as increased efficiency, improved accuracy, eliminated transport costs, and the ability to offer and receive rapid remote consultations. A well-implemented digital pathology system may lead to cost savings and better patient care. Here are some cost-related considerations you will want to keep in mind while contemplating digital pathology and comparing different vendors.
Digital Pathology Expenses
1. Initial Capital Costs
Acquiring the necessary hardware (scanners, updated computers/monitors, and possibly servers) and software for digital pathology can be a significant upfront expense. The cost varies based on the quality, capacity/throughput, and capabilities of the equipment and software chosen. There are also options to buy or lease items such as scanners. One must also consider some redundancy for failures which inevitably will occur.
2. Labor Costs
Training pathologists, laboratory technicians, and staff to use digital pathology systems effectively may incur additional costs. Additionally, hiring or allocating techs to run and calibrate scanners and IT personnel to manage and maintain the digital infrastructure will be an ongoing expense.
3. Maintenance and Upkeep
Regular maintenance and updates are essential to keep digital pathology systems running smoothly, which includes maintaining hardware, updating software, and ensuring data security.
4. Data Storage
Storing large volumes of digital pathology data, especially for institutions with high caseloads, can be costly. Cloud-based solutions may offer more flexibility but typically involve subscription costs.
5. Integration, Validation, and Compliance
Integrating digital pathology into existing laboratory workflows and validating the system to meet regulatory standards can require a significant investment in time and resources, albeit primarily a one-time cost. Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and standards, such as those set by the CAP (College of American Pathologists) and the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), may involve additional expenses.
As the volume of cases and data grows, the infrastructure may need to be scaled up, which can lead to additional costs. If there is already a reasonable return on investment (ROI) for the project, however, scaling would typically pay for itself and allow for an even greater return, given the prior investments.
Perhaps the biggest question you’re asking yourself, at this point, is: can digital pathology ever be worth the cost?
Is Digital Pathology Worth the Cost?
Whether digital pathology is worth the expense depends on several factors, including the specific needs and goals of the healthcare institution, the volume of pathology cases, available resources, and the level of commitment to implementing and maintaining the technology. It’s important to decide what would constitute a reasonable ROI for your group. The return may be gleaned by:
- Offsetting slide and block transportation costs
- Consolidating disparate inefficient labs into a central lab
- Improved lab workflow with first-in, first-out processes and no need to sort/aggregate cases
- Increased volume due to access to more pathologists who can work remotely
- Improved quality via the use of AI algorithms and ready access to consultants
- Increased prestige of your organization by using the latest technologies (and loss avoidance should competitors proceed to digital pathology)
You should conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. Engage pathologists, laboratory staff, and IT professionals in the decision-making process to ensure that the technology aligns with their needs and workflows, increase engagement, and minimize “sabotage.” Do the math, and consider buying vs. leasing vs. volume-based pricing that allows for lower costs until you grow and prove its success. If the benefits above outweigh the costs and the institution can secure the necessary funding, digital pathology can be a worthwhile investment.
Our mission at Lumea is to make digital pathology valuable and financially viable for pathologists and labs, no matter the size of their practice. We’ve invented unique patented pre-analytical devices that work alone and especially in combination with our proprietary machine-learning non-diagnostic software, slide viewers, and case-management software to create previously unimagined efficiencies. For more information, fill out this form to have a member of the Lumea team get back to you soon! In the interim, check out our blog post on the secret to getting ROI from digital pathology.