“Preventive healthcare has become a mainstay due to growing public health consciousness and the fear of potential breakout of future pandemics”

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Parag Sharma, CEO & Founder, Mantra Labs shares his views with eHealth on the course of the diagnostic sector in the coming times.

What is the framework required for the creation of a futuristic diagnostic sector?

The diagnostics industry plays a critical role in the healthcare continuum, from prevention to treatment. According to the NHS, around 70% of medical decisions regarding early disease diagnosis, patient prognosis & treatment selection and 80% of objective data in clinical results across the globe are based on lab results. The industry is moving closer to where the patient is, while health consumers themselves are more aware of the value of high quality precision testing, especially post-pandemic. A successful framework requires a combination of physical and digital layers to extend this quality to the tier 3 & tier 4 cities. This includes digital platforms for booking tests, making payments, getting insights from reports, value-added at-home services, remote monitoring, tapping into new health ecosystem value for customers, and a pan-India network presence. Testing for prevention and wellness will become more lifestyle driven which means more engagement will need to be created to help health consumers stay fit and healthy.

How has Digitization and IoT accelerated the pace of Innovation in Diagnostics?

Preventive healthcare has become a mainstay due to growing public health consciousness and the fear of potential breakout of future pandemics. IoT & digitization has helped traditional diagnostic players to shift towards disease prevention & care management organizations. Technology has also enabled diagnostics and testing to move out of the clinical environment and to the consumer’s doorstep. In vitro Diagnostics (IVD), are a particularly booming area with the growing popularity of home testing kits and increasing use of point-of-care diagnostics. Additionally, molecular diagnostics will also deliver extra value to health consumers because of the precision it brings to detecting minute changes in virus and bacteria presence outside lab environments. Medical devices can now collect additional data, provide insights & trends into patient symptoms and facilitate remote care. Data brought in through IoT-enabled sensors/devices will allow for complex data analysis that can deliver enhanced patient experiences through superior quality control, and hyper-personalisation for treatment, prevention and care.

What are your views on the need for accreditation for ensuring quality testing and outcome?

There are over 100,000 pathology & diagnostic labs in India, yet only around 1,000 of them are accredited by the NABL. The effective evaluation of quality management systems in labs both in rural and urban India is essential to successful health outcomes for patients who have to choose between cost and clinical standards. 80% of India’s diagnostic & pathology labs are small-sized labs which makes it difficult to effectively get accreditation. However, a formal recognition of technical competence for specific tests/ measurements and adherence to international standards is vital for increasing doctor/patient confidence in test results and also reducing the need for retesting. For example, during the pandemic ICMR mandated NABL accreditation for labs testing viruses. Without accreditation, the unauthorized testing market will thrive and create superfluous scenarios. The NABL’s entry-level accreditation programs for small-sized labs is an encouraging step in the right direction to bring smaller players into the formal testing process.

What are the factors that will drive the change in the diagnostics sector in the coming times?

In India, there is a growing trend of non-communicable and chronic diseases, personalised and evidence-based treatment for preventive healthcare, rising disposable incomes, and increased access to insurance covers that will further boost the pathology and diagnostics sector over the next five years. The shift of healthcare from the hospital to the patient’s home will also drive the growth of diagnostic testing in a parallel manner. The home healthcare management and testing ecosystem will cover the patient’s entire needs from regular health checkups to tele-consultations with physicians and medicine delivery. The patient will also be more data-driven with many avenues to track and monitor their health. The diagnostics sector will also need to employ greater use of AI/ML to leverage the health data explosion of the next decade.

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