PathologyWatch CEO Dan Lambert Discusses the Future of Digital Pathology on The DaVinci Hour Podcast

Digital-based services are transforming the dermatology industry, allowing clinics and patients alike to experience streamlined turnaround times and greater interoperability between healthcare providers.

At the forefront of these advancements, PathologyWatch is a full-service dermpath lab that effectively combines groundbreaking digital dermatopathology tools with the quality of customer care expected from a local provider.

Dan Lambert, PathologyWatch CEO, recently met with Dr. Maxwell Cooper of The DaVinci Hour Podcast to discuss the role of AI in current pathology workflows, the hurdles faced in the push for digital pathology, and the efficiency created by relying on these newer technologies. 

The full episode can be found here. These are a few of the highlights from the interview: 

Dr. Cooper: Tell us a little bit about PathologyWatch, like what was the impetus for starting it, and what . . . do you guys offer to dermatology practices?

Dan Lambert: We looked at this market and said, “How are we going to actually introduce the AI in a way that the market will truly adopt it?” And the more that we looked at it, it didn’t make a lot of sense to just develop the AI as a tool and then try to license it. It really needed to be a part of the laboratory, a part of the process, a part of the workflow of the physician. . . .

There are a few reasons why this process is so much better than what existed before. As you know, most [pathologists in residency] are using digital pathology to learn and study, and then they get out in the real world, and the industry is mostly microscopes and fax machines. . . . We’re replacing these very old systems with an entire end-to-end software process that takes out those fax machines, that takes out the microscopes.

A few very specific reasons why we’re growing so fast (we’re in about 70 dermatology clinics and we just started selling about two years ago): The first one is that there can be some potential financial upside for the dermatologist to view the case digitally because, even though we’re providing the primary console, if you look at the case on a secondary console, there may be potential opportunities for increased case complexity, for example.

Secondarily, it’s also just simply better patient care, but you now have both the dermatologist and the dermatopathologist or the general pathologist looking at the case. 

Other reasons: On average, we see about 25 hours of labor reduction in the dermatologist’s office because, instead of them having to deal with fax machines, we’re integrated with ModMed, EZDerm, and eClinicalWorks—all the major EMRs for our field. Going digital also enables a whole new world of being able to very easily send the case to expert consults anywhere or have your primary dermatopathologist be really anywhere in the world. And so it’s freeing up a lot of labor that otherwise would have had to be right there in the lab. I think all those pieces together make this really transformational, and that’s why we’re getting so much adoption very quickly.

Dr. Cooper: It sounds like you’ve really brought a significant amount of efficiency to what . . . previously was somewhat of an outdated process. I guess I’m wondering, as you know, physicians—and medicine at large—is resistant to change and cannot always be the best about adopting new technology or new ways of doing things. What were some of the hurdles or maybe some of the skepticism you received at first, and how did you convert those dermatologists that may have been skeptical at first to adopting your services?

Dan Lambert: Yeah, I think that’s really true. And I think those first two or three clients were so much harder than the last two or three clients. At this point, it’s very well validated, and I think everyone’s more comfortable using digital, and we don’t get as much pushback anymore. But I think early on, it was a question of “How do we know if digital is safe? How do we know that the scanner picked up all the tissue?” Actually, the scanners have really good controls in them, and we’ve fine-tuned the scanners over time to be really safe. We do use some redundant imaging to make sure that there’s not a piece of tissue that’s missing. And then also convincing the community that algorithms can really help detecting blurry spots or screening out things that happen inside the lab where the case really needs to go back and the slide needs to be redone. You know, a very common problem in pathology. . . .

[When all their conditions are aligned], they say, “Okay, you know what, I’m willing to give this a shot.” And they tend to not send all of their volume up front—they send a few samples, make sure they can see the digital, make sure that the quality of the reports is good and they’re definitive diagnoses. And then they start sending more and more; and I think that’s become a very common pattern.

I think, in general, pathologists are fairly resistant about being automated out of a job. I think that concern is in your field as well, in radiology, but we’re just not finding that. This is technology designed to assist and help go faster. Really excellent dermpaths are not going to be replaced by AI in the next few years, realistically. I think it’s an important concept to understand. Also, reimbursements are being cut; there does need to be ways to make pathology more efficient, and I think this is an answer, and the more-forward-thinking pathologists actually are really embracing this and getting involved. That’s exciting to see: that the community is moving things forward, too. . . . 

Dr. Cooper: What’s some of the positive feedback you’ve received from your clients? What have they told you [about] how this has changed their practice? How has this improved things? What are a couple of the positive comments you’ve received?

Dan Lambert: We actually have about 15 case studies—and for anyone that’s interested, we do share these case studies pretty openly. Our website is PathologyWatch.com. . . .

[One piece of feedback we’ve received] is improvement in the turnaround time because we’ve developed local laboratories in multiple locations. We’re getting really good turnaround. 

The second thing is the savings on just the time in the dermatologist’s office dealing with faxes or auto faxes—we’re eliminating a huge portion of that. We use enhanced interfaces that deliver the results directly attached to the patient record, so it’s a lot safer that way too. So you’re not putting the wrong patient record in the wrong chart. 

Also the ability to see the case—to see what the lab is seeing. That ability means that you can call up the pathologist, and you can both be looking at the case at the same time to discuss that case. In some ways, it has actually increased the amount of communication which has a lot of benefit to the patient. 

And then, overall, elimination of errors. Our labs certainly have a much lower error rate than general labs because it is software-based, and we do have patient identification controls that are better than other locations. So it’s a whole slew of benefits. . . .

I think that we can genuinely help a lot of practices move away from how it works right now.

Dan Lambert, CEO at PathologyWatch, Chats with Silicon Slopes Host on the Impact of Digital Pathology

Things are changing fast in the dermatology field. As more dermatologists turn to digital-based services, the options for expanding patient care services, accelerating turnaround times on diagnoses, facilitating interoperability among health services agencies, and streamlining workflow processes to better control overhead costs are transforming the dermatological patient experience. 

At the heart of some of those changes occurring in Utah’s pathology labs is PathologyWatch, a full-service dermpath lab that combines the dermpath expertise and cutting-edge technology of an academic center with the efficiency and customer service of a private lab.

Dan Lambert, CEO at PathologyWatch, met recently with Caitlin Hansen of Silicon Slopes to discuss the business side of running a series of digital pathology laboratories, the future of AI technology on patient care, and the vision Dan has for the future of PathologyWatch and digital dermatopathology. 

Here are some of the highlights from that interview. 

Caitlin Hansen: Can you give me a little more info about the technology?

Dan Lambert: Right now, you go into the dermatologist; then they take a biopsy, and that gets FedExed or couriered to a local lab where it’s cut into really thin slices and stained. A physician looks at that under a microscope, types up a report, and that report might be faxed somewhere. 

For us, we’re taking that process, which is very manual, and we’ve streamlined it. We make the slide digital, so that, for the first time, the dermatologist can look at that slide as part of the process, much like a radiologist would show you an X-ray. 

We’re enabling not only dermatologists but, down the road, other physicians as well to actually show you what your cancer looks like in the patient room. Also, the integration with EMR means it’s much faster for the dermatologist’s office. [This creates] a lot fewer errors, and it allows for multiple opinions on the same case, which has never been done before because it’s really just been glass slides. And so the transformation to digital across this industry is reducing costs, it’s making things faster, and it’s also drastically improving patient care.

CH: I’m curious how you feel like this is going to affect the accuracy of diagnosis as well.

DL: We see from major academic medical centers that, at the end of the day, recognizing cancer under a microscope or digital, it’s about pattern recognition, And computers, especially with deep learning, have gotten better and better at recognizing these patterns and will eventually greatly improve the diagnostic accuracy. 

It will help doctors for a long time. And then, at some point in the future, it will probably be accurate enough that we can start phasing out the human review of some of these cases. This stands to take out major costs from what is almost a $17-billion-a-year industry, which is pathology. And it’s one of the few innovations that I think can take out the true costs for a very overburdened healthcare system. . . .

CH: I’m curious about your specific focus as the CEO. . . . What does the day-to-day look like for you, and what do you put most of your focus on? 

DL: So we just raised the $25 million Series B. With that funding, now it’s going from the point where you have a product that has proven product market fit, but moving into scale means that you need a lot of really highly qualified people to build the business. I’m spending about 50 percent of my time just on straight recruiting; trying to bring in engineers. . . .

CH: You mentioned you just moved facilities. Where did you relocate to? 

DL: [We had to] move from one lab in Murray to a bigger lab in Murray. . . . It is exciting to grow. We employ about 50 people right now, and we’ll probably be at about 80 people by the end of next year, which is exciting to see the team [become] some of my close friends. It almost feels like family now. . . .

CH: What is on the horizon for you?

DL: The next phase for us is continuing development of AI. Learning to recognize cancer samples better, faster; finding those rare cases that frankly many, many physicians miss. Having gone through a couple of startups, I started this four years ago with the understanding of trying to leave something behind that’s like a true legacy or trying to make medicine truly better. It turns out that’s a hard journey. But so far it’s worked, and I’m really happy that I made that decision. . . .

CH: Are you in hospitals and clinics? How are you integrating to make sure that this technology is being used now?

DL: When we looked at the business early on, we could have gone two routes: We could have sold to hospitals, which is generally a longer sales cycle, or focus on outpatient clinics. They can make a decision usually in about a month. So we decided to go after the independent dermatology clinics that are primarily located in Utah. 

We now have five labs in different states, so we’ve scaled up quite a bit. If you go to a dermatologist here in Utah, we process the majority of skin cancer samples in the state and so your sample is probably going through our laboratories. And I’m really proud of that because I genuinely believe it’s a higher standard of care than what has existed in the past.

CH: So switching back to you being the CEO and running your company. I think that culture and motivation comes from the top down and leading by example. What is the kind of culture that you inspire your employees to abide by and how do you keep them motivated?

DL: I think in any company, you have to pick a set of values. That also means making sometimes hard decisions about what you prioritize. And I think, in this company, the culture of truth, transparency, and accuracy of the diagnostic process is more important than anything. . . .

I want our company to be the kind of place that you would send your family member samples to, and that means enforcing a really high standard of care. 

To view the full interview, click here.

PathologyWatch Raises $25M to Advance AI-Driven Skincare Research and Diagnostics

The Series B funding round will help PathologyWatch digitize biopsies, increase access to top skincare physicians and further AI research.

SALT LAKE CITY, November 16, 2021—PathologyWatch, the leading digital lab and pathology platform for dermatologists, announced today that it has raised $25M in Series B financing with participation from Ceros Capital Markets, Rock Creek Capital, SpringTide, Spark Growth Ventures, Blueprint Health, Blackbrook Management Group and existing investors.

With the new funding, PathologyWatch will broaden its outreach to dermatologists and conduct further research into skincare diagnostics and AI – allowing patients to receive faster diagnoses and more equitable access to dermatopathology services while enabling labs to work more efficiently and cost-effectively. Additionally, the funding will support operations as the business expands across the country, adding new labs in Texas, Florida and Arizona.

“We are honored that of all the digital dermpath labs available, dermatologists are increasingly choosing to partner with us,” said Dan Lambert, PathologyWatch CEO and cofounder. “As digital dermatopathology continues to grow, it has the potential to reduce the costs of pathology by billions while creating better patient care for everyone across the country. We’re thrilled to be winning so much volume so quickly.”

PathologyWatch provides fully interfaced EMR reporting and 24/7 access to digital slides for dermatology clinics. For their clients, this means more-efficient workflows and direct access to leading dermatopathologists across the country, with broad insurance coverage. PathologyWatch has successfully integrated laboratory information systems, scanners, digital viewer technology and EMRs into an end-to-end solution for dermatologists.

“PathologyWatch has been disruptive to the market and is digitally transforming the industry in unprecedented ways,” said Mark Goldwasser, CEO of Ceros. “With the need for remote health services during COVID, the distributed network of top-tier dermatopathologists alongside a digital viewer that can be accessed anytime and anywhere could not have come at a more fortuitous time.”

“For a dermatology practice to send nearly all skin biopsy volume for cancer diagnosis to PathologyWatch is a no-brainer,” said Austin Walters, founder and managing partner at SpringTide. “The company has worked hard to create a service that outperforms every other from both cost and quality perspectives.”

“Dan is a driven entrepreneur with social good in mind,” said Ryan Brooks, principal at Blackbrook Management Group. “We are part of a cause, not just an investment capital endeavor. In the past, I have been a patient waiting for pathology to come back. When you are waiting for results that could change your life dramatically, you want doctors and tech you can depend on. PathologyWatch will enhance the human experience and enable dermatopathologists to do a better job.”

“I am proud to support PathologyWatch’s mission to provide premier, accessible and affordable digital pathology services to the world,” said Rick Stratford, managing director of Rock Creek Capital. “The ability to provide top-tier pathology services to all communities regardless of location brings hope to patients in underserved areas and can save countless lives. PathologyWatch and other digital platforms like it are democratizing healthcare services and bringing hope and change to our healthcare systems.”

For more information about PathologyWatch, visit pathologywatch.com or contact [email protected]

About PathologyWatch
PathologyWatch is the groundbreaking leader of digital dermatopathology services. Through these services, dermatology clinics, hospitals and laboratories can improve operational efficiency by speeding up workflow and enhancing patient outcomes by utilizing the PathologyWatch expert professional team and in-house lab services. With an intuitive and easy-to-implement digital pathology solution that includes access to top-tier dermatopathologists and a streamlined clinical workflow that interfaces directly into the EMR, PathologyWatch brilliantly combines state-of-the-art technology and clinical decision-making to deliver unprecedented patient care.

TDS Hosts 2021 Annual Fall Meeting Virtually, and We Can’t Wait

The Texas Dermatological Society (TDS) is getting ready to roll out the red carpet—Texas-style—for their 2021 Annual Fall Meeting

In preparation for this event, we sat down with Laura Madole, executive director at the TDS, to talk about the upcoming 2021 Annual Fall Meeting to be held virtually on September 24–25, 2021. In the past, the in-person TDS event welcomed almost 400 attendees to their annual spring and fall meetings. This time, TDS looks forward to hosting hundreds in a virtual setting. 

Despite the changes prompted by COVID-19, which forced TDS to cancel their spring 2020 event, Laura is confident that attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors will enjoy the unique features of this virtual meeting. 

“We were a little nervous,” admits Laura, concerning their switch to virtual meetings. “So while we hope we can open doors in the spring of 2022, the virtual event has been the next-best option.” In fact, the fall 2020 and spring 2021 TDS events attracted almost 500 attendees. 

The unexpected benefits of hosting a virtual event focus mainly on the accessibility of the event. “It opened up opportunities for us to connect with members living in rural areas or other members who are residents at Texas Tech, for example, who can’t easily get to these events,” she says.

Experience a Unique, Interactive Virtual Event

TDS is using a company called vFairs, which invites attendees to visit customizable virtual exhibit halls, rooms, and vendor booths. Attendees can reach out directly to exhibitors and sponsors via video chat or direct text messaging. Plus, all of the attendees are listed, so face-to-face chat is easy. 

Laura says that many of these attendees have known each other for years; it’s a fun and fantastic way to earn CME credits. But if this is a member’s first time attending the event, she has some tips for a successful virtual experience. 

“I recommend just going in and looking around within the platform: click around and get familiar with the layout. There’s an auditorium, a virtual lobby, a lounge, and several other rooms. I’d definitely utilize the chat feature at a meeting, so it feels like you’re surrounded by your friends and colleagues. It’s more fun when people can interact on the platform.”

The virtual element definitely encourages participation among residents who often have difficulty attending in-person events. Laura says that TDS usually hosts around seven podium presenters for the resident competition. But with virtual, they are delighted to offer 19 podium presenters this fall. 

Take Exhibitor Information with You

This is not a typical Zoom meeting. The vFairs platform provides a hotel lobby feel that engulfs attendees in a rich, virtual world filled with uniquely designed exhibits and booths. Guests can virtually stroll amid custom-designed booths, or they can move directly to a booth of their choice from a directory.

“While we enjoy meeting people face to face at events like this, virtually connecting with people who are genuinely interested in learning more about our technology is a fantastic opportunity,” says Rachel Reeg, senior sales director at PathologyWatch. “At in-person events, you compete with high-volume activity that can be distracting, and people often limit the time they spend at your booth. With the virtual briefcase, we can provide valuable information through video, downloadable case studies, ebooks, product information, and other resources that guests can look through when it’s convenient for them and reach out if they want to know more.”

After the conference, attendees will receive all of the information they saved in their virtual briefcase via email. This is a great feature for attendees to keep track of exhibitor information without the risk of losing papers or accidentally leaving them behind. Since the materials are digital, exhibitors can promote products and services through expanded forms of media; a feature that isn’t possible at in-person events. 

Host a Social Scene, Just on a Screen

For Laura, the conference is an ideal opportunity to interact with members. “There are many components of my job with the TDS. There are meetings, but there are also membership duties. There’s a financial side and boardwork, and grants, and grant-writing,” she says. “With all of those duties, it’s always a good refresher to be surrounded by our members and make personal connections. That interaction reminds me why I do the job that I do. I love it. I do it for my members, and I hope these meetings are a benefit to them.”

The event offers attendees required CME credits as well as the one-hour ethics credit required for those practicing in Texas. But the platform also hosts a background gamification. A visit to the leaderboard shows attendees how to accumulate points from participating in sessions, visiting exhibit booths, and more. 

“For those who are present, and based on the leaderboard points, I will be doing raffles throughout the conference,” says Laura, who promises some amazing prizes for the winners. 

Although hosting virtual events may be a temporary condition for TDS, Laura is partial to the idea of maintaining a virtual component to future events. “I would love to offer a virtual component to our events because it’s a member benefit,” she says. “Members being able to attend from anywhere in Texas if they can’t attend a physical event is huge.” 

She believes that incorporating virtual sessions or activities in conjunction with in-person events is a great offering for members. But the upcoming fall event is the main focus, and it’s shaping up to be “virtually” one of the most engaging, must-attend dermatology events of the season. 

For registration and event information, click here.

PW Recognized as One of Utah’s Fastest Emerging Companies 2021

The PathologyWatch team is thrilled and honored to be on the Utah Business Magazine’s Emerging Growth 2021 Fast 50 List of the state’s fastest-growing companies!

Utah Business and Bind Benefits hosted this year’s Fast 50 Awards Celebration on August 26th, 2021, at the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

What Is a Fast 50 Emerging Company?

Fast 50 Award Lunch 2021

Each year, Utah Business (UB) presents a special category that showcases emerging companies that display exponential growth. PathologyWatch was one of those companies. 

UB celebrates these companies for their rapid revenue growth and business strategies, but the entrepreneurial spirit also inspires them.

PathologyWatch was honored as the groundbreaking leader of digital dermatopathology services, brilliantly combining state-of-the-art technology and clinical decision-making to deliver exceptional patient care.

Company rankings will be published in the September issue of Utah Business magazine.

To read the complete list of companies, click here

 

Greg Osmond Fast 50 2021

Are Your Billing and CPT Codes Up to Date?

The AMA released a list of CPT code updates and changes, notably for patient encounters, ordering tests, and discussions, among others. They reported 329 code changes in the most current CPT code edition, some of which impact dermatologists, pathologists, and dermatopathologists.

Although few dermatologists would take pride in their CPT coding skills, being proficient in billing practices can ensure the business side of your practice runs smoothly and gets reimbursed quickly. But as AMA announces major updates to their CPT coding sets, now is the time to check your CPT codes for accuracy and compliance.

There are a few factors that have impacted the need for changes: First, the shift toward value-based care; second, the Patients over Paperwork initiative launched by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2017; and third, the onset of COVID-19, which required additional codes.

As healthcare systems transition to a VBC model, here’s why it’s important for your CPT codes to be current.  

Why Update CPT Codes?

In response to the growing concern among healthcare providers that the documentation requirements for billing weren’t benefiting patient care, the AMA set out to streamline the CPT coding process. 

According to the AMA, “The CPT code set continues to be modified to respond to the fast pace innovation among digital medicine services that can improve access to health care and improved health outcomes for patients across the country.”

By streamlining the standard for communicating healthcare procedures and services across healthcare teams and health systems, better CPT coding and billing procedures will reduce the cost of care while increasing the quality of care and expand access to it. In addition to preventing fraudulent claims and reducing the risk of monetary or legal penalties, other results may include more accurate billing and a reduction in claim denials, which can frustrate patients and impact a provider’s reputation.

“The AMA is attacking dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care,” the AMA says. “Our focus is on making technology an asset in the delivery of health care, not a burden.”

What CPT Code Changes Can We Expect for Pathology and Dermatopathology?

To focus on codes that impact the pathology, dermatology, and dermatopathology fields, APS Medical Billing released a CPT code change summary highlighting the most common CPT codes. You can access it here

For instance, although coding for inpatient encounters and consultations are not affected by these changes, doctors should note changes in codes 99201 through 99215 that pertain to outpatient office visits. “With these landmark changes, as approved by the CPT Editorial Panel, documentation for E/M office visits will now be centered around how physician think and take care of patients and not on mandatory standards that encouraged copy/paste and checking boxes,” says the AMA, adding that the goal of these coding changes is to decrease the overload of documentation and coding, cut down on unnecessary documentation, reduce audits, and make sure reimbursement for E/M is resource-based.

How Does EMR Technology Make It Easy to Update CPT Codes?

Fortunately, using EMR for your patients’ information makes it easy to update CPT code changes. EMR technology houses patient data in a secure location that is easy to organize and share with other healthcare providers, insurance companies, pharmacies, labs, other clinics, billing services, and more. Compared to traditional handwriting, an EMR facilitates the code assignment for billing, increases legibility to reduce errors, curtails paperwork, and eliminates duplicate tests.  

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “Documenting a patient’s record with all relevant and important facts, and having that information readily available, allows providers to furnish correct and appropriate services that can improve quality, safety, and efficiency.” 

If your clinic is considering updating to digital patient records, we’ve weighed some pros and cons of using an EMR system. Check it out!