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The company allows dermatologists to have 24/7 access to cancer images, speeding up diagnosis
Artificial intelligence was already becoming a big part of healthcare even before the pandemic, thanks to the amount of data now being generated, and the need to clean it up and get some insights out of it. Of course, like so many other things in healthcare, COVID accelerated that trend as it brought issues within the health system, including the need for more equitable and accessible care, to the forefront.
As such, the technology has now become a necessity: AI in diagnostic services grew by 80% in 2020.
That's a benefit to companies like PathologyWatch, which is developing AI to help physicians better identify and treat patients who are at risk for skin cancer, using the technology to make more accurate diagnoses.
Now it's got $25 million in Series B financing to keep building that out. The funding came from Ceros Capital Markets, Rock Creek Capital, Springtide Capital, Spark Growth Ventures, Blueprint Health, Blackbrook Management Group, and existing investors, bringing its total raised to $37 million.
The mission for PathologyWatch is to both make diagnosis faster, and to reduce errors; the World Health Organization has prioritized diagnostic errors as a high-priority problem. To achieve this, PathologyWatch has developed a digital dermatopathology solution that integrates laboratory information systems, scanners, digital viewer technology, and EMRs.
Right now, many dermatologists receive their cancer reports via fax; the company is changing that by integrating EMR reporting and giving physicians 24/7 access to digital slides. The company sends pathology reports into the existing EMR system, allowing the dermatologists to have constant access, and then easily connect with pathologists if necessary.
All of this has the effect of speeding up workflows, and enhancing patient outcomes, Dan Lambert, co-founder and CEO of PathologyWatch, told me.
"This is the first time that dermatologists can actually see the cancer images. Previously, the dermatologist would have to request the slide and then ship it back. Now, the dermatologist has clinical correlation with the pathologist and can actually see the case and call the pathologist if needed," he said.
As a result of using PathologyWatch, its clients have seen up to 75 percent decrease in sample turnaround time, as well as up to 75 percent decrease in the time it takes for physicians to review pathology reports.
As PathologyWatch is typically used in in-patient settings, including dermatology clinics, hospitals and laboratories, the pandemic put the company in a tight spot when in-person healthcare services shut down. In response, it was able to pivot so that it could also facilitate meetings with doctors virtually.
"Fortunately, we were able to communicate the value of PathologyWatch well," said Lambert.
"Our value proposition was strengthened by the fact that doctors needed to find the ability to provide services remotely. Our digital model enables us to provide diagnostic services even amid uncertain times. Our whole slide imaging process is cloud-based, which means the lab’s digitized test results and slides are accessible to dermatologists anytime, anywhere."
The company has now partnered with nearly a hundred dermatology clinics across the United States, and has helped treat tens of thousands of patients; it will use the new funding to continue to broaden its outreach to dermatologists, thanks to accelerated trends brought on by pandemic. That includes increased availability to high-quality care in rural and underserved regions; faster turnaround times on test samples that reduces the wait time for results from weeks to days; and expanded access to qualified expertise, particularly in cancer diagnostics and other malignancies.
The company also plans to conduct further research into skincare diagnostics and artificial intelligence, building out that part of its solution.
"Our AI research focuses on deep learning for pattern recognition. Eventually, AI will enable pathologists across the industry to be both faster and more accurate when diagnosing cases," said Lambert.
Finally, the funding will go toward expanding the business geographically, including adding new labs in Texas, Florida, and Arizona. The company already has strongholds in California, through its relationship with Cedars-Sinai, and it has physical labs in Texas and Florida. Those areas were of particular interesting because residents are prone to chronic skin conditions, based on both age, climate, and lifestyles.
A big part of the company's mission, however, also has to do with solving the issue of lack of access to skin care needs, which is why it also has plans to expand into regions such as Utah, Nevada, and Idaho.
"According to the CDC, these states are home to some of the nation’s largest rural communities, who often lack access to specialized medical care, plus they report some of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the country," said Lambert.
"Ultimately, our goal is to provide affordable, available, and accurate diagnoses to the world’s population."
(Image source: pathologywatch.com)
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