The world market for digital pathology is expected to rise to $600 million by 2022, according to a new report from Signify Research. But it will have to overcome some strong obstacles first.
“The interest and enthusiasm for digital pathology has ebbed and flowed over the last decade,” wrote the report’s author, Steve Holloway, an analyst at U.K.-based healthcare technology consultancy Signify Research. “However, we are now seeing significant changes in the market, with a notable increase in demand for digital scanners, especially in North America, China and Northern Europe.”
Currently, global digital pathology revenues are slightly above $400 million, according to the report. That number is expected to jump to approximately $450 million in 2019 and ultimately $600 million by 2022.
In 2017, the FDA approved the first digital pathology solution for primary diagnosis in the U.S., a landmark moment, according to the report. In addition, Holloway pointed to the successful implementation of regional digital pathology networks across Northern Europe as a sign of a growing interest in the market, and even suggested the model could serve as a blueprint for other health systems.
As hospital networks and clinical laboratories continue to consolidate and centralize their networks, Holloway argued larger digital pathology “hubs” may follow suit. A shift toward vendor-neutral systems may also affect the growing market.
“The software sector is moving towards less proprietary solutions, with several ‘scanner-agnostic’ software management platforms emerging in the last few years,” Holloway wrote. “While there is a long way to go for digital pathology to become mainstream in leading clinical markets, recent developments suggest the market is starting to open up.”
Despite the industry’s successes, many pathologists have been resistant to swap their microscopes for digital scanners, which has limited digital pathology’s growth. The lack of regulatory approval for digital systems prior to 2017 has slowed pathologies adoption of such technologies and has driven top vendors away from the market, according to the report. The proprietary nature of many scanners in relation to digital pathology software has also hindered growth.
“The digital pathology market continues to hold significant promise” Holloway said. “While our market growth outlook is relatively modest, there is potential for upside if regulatory approval of new solutions in North America increases. Moreover, the promise of computational pathology, evident from the recent surge in seed funding, could also create an uptick in demand later in the forecast.”
The full report dives into a number of other factors that will affect the growth of digital pathology, including its potential role in precision medicine.