Establishing Second-Opinion Pathology Consultations in China
UPMC Shares Cancer Expertise to Improve Patient Outcomes
China experiences some of the highest rates of cancer and associated mortality in the world, with the incidence of certain forms of cancer ranging from a third to nearly half of all cases reported globally. To counter this serious health threat, experts in China agreed that improving the quality of pathology services, particularly in rural areas, through education and collaboration was essential. KingMed Diagnostics, the largest independent medical diagnostic laboratory in China, partnered with UPMC to bring international pathology expertise to rural areas across the country to enhance cancer diagnoses, guide clinical treatment teams and improve cancer care outcomes.
Taking the First Step
To address China’s unprecedented undiagnosed cancer rates, many experts agreed that better treatment needed to begin with better medical diagnosis.
“It is critical to achieve an accurate tissue diagnosis from the beginning to make sure the right treatments are selected,” said Dr. George Michalopoulos, chairman of the Department of Pathology at UPMC and professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“The problem is that in China, expertise in certain pathology subspecialties is lacking, especially in rural areas and smaller hospitals. This can result in misdiagnoses or under-diagnoses,” said Dr. Michalopoulos.
Sharing UPMC’s Clinical Expertise
KingMed operates the largest independent clinical laboratory network in China. Established in 1996 and headquartered in Guangzhou, KingMed runs 22 facilities, employs more than 5,000 people and serves 9,000 hospitals nationwide.
Because the organization’s leadership understood the benefits of improving diagnostic pathology to better guide treatment selection for patients, KingMed reached out to UPMC for a collaboration that would enhance the capabilities of local pathologists. In addition to being recognized for having one of the most comprehensive pathology departments in the world, UPMC has a proven record of successful global partnerships, including its tele-pathology consultation model.
In 2011, UPMC formalized its partnership with KingMed to provide remote, second-opinion pathology consultations. Following a thorough assessment of KingMed’s needs, the teams designed a quality-controlled process for exchanging tissue specimen information and a timely process for expert review to guide clinical decision making and achieve optimal patient care. Next, UPMC worked with KingMed to procure, install and operationalize equipment, as well as provide advanced training to local staff.
“While we are focused on bringing best practices from the United States, we take the time to develop collaborative relationships and understand the people we’re working with, understand their vision and the obstacles they face,” said Charles Bogosta, president of UPMC International. “We work to ensure that things run smoothly, and we want our services to help continuously improve patient care in our partners’ countries.”
“While we are focused on bringing best practices from the United States, we take the time to develop collaborative relationships and understand the people we’re working with, understand their vision and the obstacles they face.”
– Charles Bogosta, President of UPMC International
A year later, in 2012, KingMed began sharing digital microscopy files with UPMC pathologists, who could examine the pathology images and provide a precise diagnosis. Cases steadily grew each month of the collaborative relationship. During the partnership’s second year, four times the number of pathology slides were processed for second-opinion services than during the first year.
“With its remote consultation service, UPMC pathologists were able to provide more accurate and faster diagnoses for Chinese patients,” said Dr. Chengquan Zhao, associate director of cytopathology at UPMC, professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and coordinator of UPMC’s telepathology program with KingMed. “In other words, I believe that we helped save a lot of lives.”
Looking Forward to a Continued Collaboration
Today, UPMC and KingMed are focused on expanding the Chinese population’s awareness of KingMed’s enhanced capabilities, increasing the number of second-opinion consultations, improving diagnostic accuracy and optimizing treatment decisions and patient care for a greater number of patients.
“UPMC’s remote consultation system makes it possible for me to provide a pathology diagnosis for any patient in the world.”
– Dr. Chengquan Zhao, Associate Director of Cytopathology at UPMC, Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and Coordinator of UPMC’s Telepathology Program with KingMed
The KingMed relationship demonstrates the skill and capacity in health care consultation that UPMC can provide to ensure the best possible care where patients live.
“UPMC’s remote consultation system makes it possible for me to provide a pathology diagnosis for any patient in the world,” said Dr. Zhao.
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