UPMC signs deal to consult in China

Offering 2nd opinions in pathology cases

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Marking its first formal venture in China, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center today announced it had reached a three-year agreement with China's largest independent medical diagnostic laboratory to provide second-opinion pathology consultations.

The arrangement with KingMed Diagnostics, headquartered in Guangzhou, is slated to get under way by late summer.

UPMC will be paid a flat fee for each case, but the amount and other terms of the contract were not released.

The agreement is expected to include training for Chinese pathologists at UPMC's Pittsburgh facilities. In addition, UPMC has opened an office in Shanghai, with a full-time staff member, to develop other joint ventures.

George Michalopoulos, chairman of the pathology department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said KingMed approached the Pittsburgh health system in September about a joint venture in which UPMC would offer its pathology expertise both for second opinion consultations and to help train the Chinese lab's pathologists.

He said UPMC had been working for some time on technology to allow fast and accurate transmission of tissue slide images across long distances. The joint venture with KingMed goes a step further, in that UPMC pathologists will be able to access the images in China without anyone needing to transmit them.

On any given day, a Pittsburgh-based pathologist -- some in different specialties -- will be on call to respond when an alarm indicates someone in China is waiting for a consult on a case.

Dr. Michalopoulos expects that they will handle about 1,000 cases annually -- which should not immediately require any additional clinical staff -- and he said they can manage 4,000 to 6,000 cases each year if necessary. He also said officials at some academic medical centers and cancer centers in China have inquired about similar ventures.

KingMed has 17 laboratories serving 6,000 hospitals and clinics in 26 of China's 33 provincial regions.

In a release, Yaoming Liang, founder and CEO of KingMed Diagnostics, said the agreement demonstrated the company's commitment "to offering the most comprehensive, highest quality laboratory services," adding that it "provides our patients with access to another source of pathology expertise that is not widely available in China."

UPMC already has clinical management contracts for a transplant program in Sicily, Italy; operates two cancer centers in Ireland; and owns and operates UPMC Beacon Hospital in Dublin. It is providing teaching and training in family medicine for a hospital in Japan.

Steve Twedt: stwedt@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1963.


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