“IT applications serve as the backbone of our operations” : Dr Sumit Dutta, General Manager – Quest Diagnostics, India

Dr Sumit Dutta
Vice President and General Manager, Quest Di­agnostics

As the Vice President and General Manager of Quest Diagnostics, Dr Sumit Dutta is responsible for creating an environment of quality, integrity and success for patients, customers and employees. Today, Quest Diagnostics is one of the largest pathology laboratories in the world.

In conversation with eHEALTH, Dr Dutta shared insights into the current industry scenario of diagnostic laboratories in India and Quest’s presence in this space

What is your outlook on the diagnostic industry in India?

At Quest Diagnostics, we are very positive about the opportunities for high quality diagnostic testing in India. While India is getting richer with 8.5 percent GDP growth, many in India are getting sicker. For example, India has the most number of diabetes patients in the world and is labeled as the world’s ‘Diabetes Capital’. Other lifestyle-diseases such as cardiovascular disease and obesity are growing rapidly even among the younger population.

India is burdened with various types of cancers and infectious diseases. It contributes over 132,000 cases of the estimated 500,000 cervical cancer cases globally per year, representing more than one-fourth of the world’s cervical cancer cases.

The role of diagnostics in addressing rapidly growing diseases is significant and local healthcare providers have increased their reliance on diagnostic testing to make the best decisions for their patients. The growing middle-class also recognises the value of pathology testing and is willing to pay for these tests. This is reflected in the over 20 percent CAGR in the last five years in India’s diagnostics industry.

In terms of challenges, the diagnostics industry is highly fragmented with an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 diagnostic centers around the country and currently no government regulation to ensure quality and standards. The largest players account for less than 15 percent of the total diagnostics market.

Please provide a brief background of Quest Diagnostics and its reach in India and overseas?

As the largest pathology laboratory in the world with over `31,500 crores (US $7.4 billion) in revenues, Quest Diagnostics employs over 900 medical doctors and PhDs, the largest medical and scientific staff in the industry.

Globally, Quest Diagnostics performs testing on behalf of more than 500,000 (five lakh) patients every day. With operations in the US, India, UK, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Ireland, we are a Fortune 500 company that has pioneered many innovative diagnostic tests as well as advanced healthcare information technology solutions to help improve patient care.

In India, we have set up a state-of-the-art 65,000 square foot facility in Gurgaon, Haryana that deploys cutting edge technology, processes and quality standards to ensure bringing global best practices and the latest innovations to patients in India.

Which are the major areas that Quest Diagnostics is focusing on in the diagnostics segment?

Quest Diagnostics performs around 4500 test globally and around 700-800 tests in India. We serve the high-end testing needs for hospitals and offer a full testing service for physician offices. Initially, we focused on Women’s Health from menarche to post-menopausal women, covering prenatal screening, hormonal testing, cervical cancer screening, arthritis testing etc. We were the first to introduce tests like Quad-screen to determine the risk of delivering a child with Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18, or Neural Tube Defects in the second trimester of pregnancy, and Liquid based Cytology for screening cervical cancer. We also conduct High Risk HPV Test (Cervista), HPV Genotype 16 & 18.

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s largest cancer diagnostics company, and we recently launched a wide array of testing for diagnosing and monitoring blood cancer in India. We are in the process of making our 600+ Medical Experts with organ-focused board certification and fellowships available to offer diagnosis to patients in India. We offer pre-employment and wellness testing for large Indian companies and multi-national organisations. Consumers can have testing performed directly with Quest Diagnostics. 

Leumeta is one example of pioneering innovation by Quest Diagnostics jointly with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop a less invasive, and at times more sensitive, blood test for diagnosing leukemia/lymphoma and other cancers, without a need for painful extraction of bone marrow cells with a large-bore needle through the hipbone. Another recent offering from Quest Diagnostics in India is the Hain’s Test, a new improved molecular test for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), in which the results are available within just a day of testing as compared to 14-42 days with conventional methodology. In addition, Quest Diagnostics has been supporting the clinical trials needs for leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic institutions for decades. We perform over 3 million clinical trials tests globally each year. We have brought Quest Diagnostics’ clinical trials capabilities to our laboratory in India in order to serve the needs of the growing clinical trials market being performed in India.

What is the level and nature of IT applications in your laboratories? How is it adding value to your business efficiency?

IT applications serve as the backbone of our operations and are involved in every step of the way—from tracking the samples via barcode, which ensures that specimens are tied to patients correctly through the entire process, to performing statistical quality control on results and delivering results securely to our customers. Without sophisticated IT applications, preserving patient privacy and delivering accurate results can be challenging.

Quest Diagnostics is a pioneer in health information technology (HIT), and we are a leading provider of technologies that are at the center of the emerging digital healthcare infrastructure. In the United States, more than 165,000 (1.65 lakh) doctors use Care360 technology platform to order lab tests, prescribe drugs, and record and share clinical information such as lab results, medication history, patient problems, and allergies, with other healthcare providers. As physicians in India begin to adopt information technology to record patient visits, communicate with other physicians, order diagnostic testing and prescribe medications, we will be able to introduce our established platform to the India market.

This year we are making our 600+ US based MDs with organ-focused board certification and fellowships in cancer diagnosis available to render expert opinion/ diagnosis to cancer patients in India using Digital Pathology. With Digital Pathology, traditional glass slides are converted into digital images that can be viewed, managed, and analysed from anywhere at any time over high speed networks. In this way, pathologists that specialise in a particular type of cancer can provide an opinion from anywhere the expertise exists, eliminating geographical boundaries and enhancing global collaboration.

Our focus on patients combined with the Indian consumers comfort using technology, encouraged us to offer tailored packages for monitoring key diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular via quest4health.com, an interactive consumer portal.  Our website empowers customers to learn about diagnostic testing, order tests packages, receive consumer-friendly reports, and store results.

Quest Diagnostics’ recent IT investments include Gazelle, a new personal mobile health platform that empowers patients to see, store and share their medical information, and to take control of their health anywhere, anytime

What is the average technology spend in your company and which areas have you prioritised for future technology investments?

Being the world largest pathology laboratory with a relentless focus on innovation and better patient care, we make significant investments in information technology and developing innovative applications. Quest Diagnostics’ recent IT investments include Gazelle, a new personal mobile health platform that empowers patients to see, store and share their medical information, and to take control of their health anywhere, anytime. With Gazelle, patients can directly receive their lab results on their Smartphone. It also enables patients to conveniently share vital health information with any healthcare provider. In India too, we prioritize our technology investment based on its ability to help/empower people; given that smart phone use is increasing, we are working on bringing capabilities like Gazelle to India.

What is the share of organised and unorganised laboratories in the diagnostic sector? What is the market share that Quest Diagnostics plans to garner in the next 2 years?

Quest Diagnostics, along with a few other laboratories and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), supports the requirement of accreditation and better standards for our industry. Our laboratory in India holds the same high standards as any of Quest Diagnostics’ other laboratories around world. Nearly 80-90 percent of the diagnostic care market in India is highly unorganised and fragmented; the vast majority of these laboratories do not maintain accreditation such as The National Accreditation Board of Laboratories (NABL) or the College of American Pathologists (CAP) certification, which we maintain. We witnessed strong growth in our business in India in 2010, and expect this to continue.

What is the future growth model of the company?

Our growth model is based on serving patients, physicians, companies and hospitals with quality, innovation and outstanding service. We will relentlessly focus on quality and continue to bring new technology like digital pathology to India to drive growth.

Quest Diagnostics is committed to India and serving the diagnostic needs of its people. In 2010, we received approval as a diagnostic laboratory for the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) providing access to central government’s employees and retirees to Quest Diagnostics high quality testing. In 2011 and beyond, we will continue to partner with the government and private sectors to provide Indians with access to the latest innovations in the diagnostics industry. 

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