Dr Sanjay Arora, Managing Director, Suburban Diagnostics (I) Pvt. Ltd.

Technological efficiency is the backbone of medical diagnostics. The lab-to-clinic continuum is heavily driven and intertwined with technology; so much so that it would not be an overstatement to say that technology and medical diagnostics are in a live-in relationship in the healthcare ecosystem! Typically, technical expertise and operational efficiency are the cornerstones of any business process. The business of laboratory diagnosis is no exception. When it comes to a large chain of labs like Suburban Diagnostics, technology plays a considerably crucial role at every step of the technical and operational process.

Technical Advancements in Lab Testing and Interpretation

The impact of technology in diagnostics has gone beyond just great equipment and sensitive methodologies. Today, technology has brought lab diagnostics to the doorstep of the patient and the clinician with the use of institutionalized and consumer-based point-of-care testing (PoCT) devices. The mobile phone revolution has also had far-reaching changes in the way diagnostic services can be offered to patients. Booking lab tests and accessing reports, seeking medical consultations, counting calories, planning work-outs, and much more is just an app away! A procedure as cumbersome as continuous glucose monitoring has been made easy by technology. It has now become hi-tech and simple with an insulin pump and a glucometer both connected to each other via Bluetooth.

In the same vein, as technology decoded the human genome, overwhelming quantities of genetic data became accessible to labs and clinicians. Customized therapy tailored down to the level of individual genetic mutations was conceptualized, thus opening up the gateways of companion diagnostics, targeted therapy, and personalized genomics. The impact of technology in diagnostics has not just been restricted to lab testing alone; rather it has also become a major driver in the way the large quantum of clinical data, emanating out of healthcare settings, gets analyzed at an epidemiological level. This is nothing but what we call big data analytics in the tech jargon. Computed clinical algorithms are being run on this big data to understand epidemiological and clinical patterns of disease, more closely than ever before. Big data analytics in lab medicine, machine learning, and predictive modelling; all of these, finally converge to the current poster-boy of the hi-tech universe called artificial intelligence (AI).

Just like in any other area of work, in diagnostics too, AI is nothing but an outcome of smart algorithms being run on large validated datasets. Just a case in point is an AI platform developed by IBM called Watson Oncology Advisor that allows informed treatment decisions in cancer patients and is an acclaimed cognitive computing tool in cancer care. At Suburban Diagnostics too, we have a humungous quantum of clinical data parked systematically in our data warehouse systems. We believe this data is extremely precious and coveted as it is local data that tells the clinician of disease patterns in his or her backyard!! Besides, on several disorders, we face lack of Indian data. In such situations, retrospective analyses of data from our warehouse, becomes instrumental in understanding indigenous patterns of disease. Such data, we believe can be the starting point for larger pan-India clinical studies.

Technology for Operational Efficiency and Customer Delight

Our data analytics capability has also enabled us to reach out to our patient database on a one-to-one basis sending out alerts for health checks and prompting patients who are due for repeat testing. Our patients can access their reports online which makes the process of reporting leaner and quicker. In a lab like ours, a robust Customer Relationship Module (CRM) can further enhance customer experience in terms of booking tests, making e-payments, accessing online health records, digital test alerts, locating nearby centers, and boost the entire customer life-cycle management.

The Bottom-Line: Diagnostics Ought to be Tech-Savvy!!

Being hi-tech is not a choice but a necessity and a progressive move for the diagnostics industry. Right from the instance a patient walks in till the final test report arrives; the whole journey is dotted with several technological touch-points. No wonder industry gurus forecast that Tech-Savvy diagnostics is here to stay and grow.

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