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Pathology News Roundup: July 26, 2022

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2023 QPP Proposal. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released its proposed 2023 Quality Payment Program (QPP) regulation, outlining more challenging performance thresholds for pathologists.

The CMS also provided consistency in MIPS while they gain familiarity with MIPS Value Pathways (MVPs) and move toward accountable care and advanced alternative payment models. Though limited, the proposed changes to the MIPS program could significantly impact pathologists’ scores and payment bonuses.

In the proposed 2023 QPP regulation, the CMS will leave the performance threshold at 75 points. However, the CMS did increase the complexity to reach the scoring threshold, as measures that used to be worth between 3 and 7 points could be worth as little as 1 point. Because the pathology QPP measures are topped out, pathologists must achieve a near-perfect score to get 7 points. Otherwise, if a practice does not achieve a near-perfect score, the practice could receive only 1 point for that measure. Additionally, the exceptional performance bonus pool is no longer available.

In 2023, pathologists reporting MIPS will have to take action to avoid penalties that reduce future Medicare Part B payments for their services. For example, failing to reach the scoring threshold in 2023 could result in Medicare payment penalties up to 9 percent for payments in 2025.

With the proposed 2023 changes to scoring, it is likely that many small practices – especially those that rely heavily on the topped-out QPP measures – could see a reduction in their MIPS performance scores, leading to penalties. Billing companies alone are not able to avoid this problem for many practices.

The College of American Pathologists says it will continue to advocate for pathologists’ success in the MIPS program.

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UAB Pathology Establishes Division of Women's Health. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pathology has established its new Division of Women’s Health.

The UA Board of Trustees approved the division in February 2022. Interim Division Director Thomas Winokur, M.D., will lead the division as an ongoing recruiting effort for a permanent director takes place. Winokur says the creation of the division stands to help emphasize UAB's departmental and institutional commitment to women’s health.

UAB Path

The Division of Women's Health is directed by Thomas Winokur, M.D. Faculty include (left to right, bottom row): Xiao Huang, M.D., Ph.D., and Kavita Varma, M.D., DNB, assistant professors; (top row, l to r): Valeria Dal Zotto, M.D., assistant professor; Andrea Kahn, M.D., Professor and Section Head, GYN Pathology; Virginia Duncan, M.D., Assistant Professor, Section Head, Perinatal Pathology. Image courtesy of UAB Pathology.

“The establishment of this division serves to unify the subspecialties we have focused on in women’s health in pathology as a field—obstetrics/gynecology, breast, perinatal—and bring them under one umbrella,” Winokur said.

The primary goals for the division are to aid in recruiting talented individuals to UAB to focus on women’s health, to work with UAB Medicine to enhance diagnostic and molecular testing in areas impacting women’s health, and to build a research portfolio in these areas.

“Both our primary and secondary faculty will have strong relationships with anyone on campus working on women’s health issues,” said George Netto, M.D., Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair. “This will enhance our connectivity to others in the institution working toward the goal of improving health care diagnostics and treatment for all women seeking care at UAB.”

Warner Huh, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, says he is excited at the prospect of partnering with the new division, building on the relationship his department already has with UAB Pathology.

“We have a very busy division with the only cervical SPORE in the state (a grant-funded mechanism to study HPV vaccines to reduce cervical cancer incidents), and a significant contract with the National Cancer Institute on endometrial cancer, and we need this strong pathology partner to be successful in these areas,” Huh said. “In Alabama we see more diverse pathology in these areas than in most parts of the country. We look forward to enhanced diagnostic and molecular testing and screening for ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers.”

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Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb Partnership. Biotechnology company Roche has announced a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb to support the advancement of two assays for use in clinical trials with the development and deployment of two new digital pathology algorithms.

In the first project under this collaboration, Roche Digital Pathology is creating an AI-based image analysis algorithm to aid pathologists in interpreting the on-market VENTANA PD-L1 (SP142) Assay. Bristol Myers Squibb will use this algorithm to generate biomarker data from clinical trial samples.

In the second project, Roche will leverage its recently announced Open Environment collaboration with PathAI to integrate a PathAI-developed algorithm for CD8 biomarker analysis into the NAVIFY Digital Pathology workflow software. The AI-powered algorithm will be used by Bristol Myers Squibb to analyze clinical trial samples that have been stained with Roche's CD8 assay and generate quantitative spatial biomarker data.

Data from both projects will be used to aid in cancer diagnosis and to advance personalized healthcare treatment options, with the aim of improving outcomes for patients.

"The Bristol Myers Squibb and PathAI collaborations are among the first examples where AI technology and digital pathology applications are playing a role in developing treatments for patients. By using our NAVIFY Digital platform to interpret tissue based assays and AI algorithms, pathologists are better able to identify targeted therapy options, ultimately improving patient care," said Jill German, Head of Roche Diagnostics Pathology Customer Area.

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