DBMI Chair Becich part of new GE Healthcare/UPMC venture

Michael J. Becich, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, will serve as a senior consultant to Omnyx LLC, a new GE Healthcare/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC) venture that has the potential to transform surgical pathology though the use of a “virtual microscope.” GE Healthcare is a unit of the General Electric Company. Becich and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC began work over a decade ago to develop this technology, which is intended to improve the speed and accuracy of disease diagnosis.

“Currently, this technology is largely being used for education and training,” Becich recently told The Dark Report. “What will make the market explode is getting certification from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use these instruments for primary diagnosis. Getting the FDA to approve this technology as a medical device will allow pathologists to use imaging as the primary diagnostic mode in the same way radiologists look at images as part of their work flow.”

“The workflow improvements alone are significant,” he stated. “Most large pathology practices operate in more than one location. The pathology practices at UPMC operate in 20 hospitals. We do our histology in centralized laboratories, which means these slides must be distributed back out to the hospitals. Like most centralized labs, we have a courier distribution system, which has its own inefficiencies. Further, if we have to do consults, we must package the slides and mail them between locations. Of course, glass slides sometimes break or become lost. But having a digital solution allows us to solve all of these problems at once. From an efficiency standpoint, there would be an opportunity for pathologists to be more efficient while also handling higher volumes of cases,” observed Becich.

“Potentially, the largest productivity improvements could occur with the ancillary staff. This includes the couriers who transport the glass slides throughout the system. It also includes the technologists who file slides when they are returned, retrieve glass slides from storage, and who also recut specimens when necessary. Digitized pathology systems will reduce the demand for this labor, which will help to ease the shortage of high-quality technologists and histotechnologists,” Becich predicted.

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