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A look into the promising future after an unpredictable year

The year 2020 has been a roller-coaster ride for the entire healthcare industry, including the diagnostics sector. COVID-19 disrupted the normal routine of life with lockdowns and social distancing norms being enforced across the country.

While the cases rose gradually, a sharp reduction was registered in the number of patients visiting hospitals and diagnostics labs for regular check-ups and treatment. This resulted in a direct impact on the diagnostics industry.

For CORE Diagnostics, this year marked some significant developments. The former CEO and founder of the company, Zoya Brar, decided to hand over the baton, and I was given the opportunity to lead the company in a new era. I am truly humbled at the confidence that the board of directors has put in me. I have seen the organization grow from a small startup to a 400+ strong team, and I plan to keep the momentum going in the times to come.

CORE at the forefront of high-end diagnostics

At CORE, our mission has been to make the most advanced testing techniques and expertise available and accessible in India that will make targeted, individualized treatment one step closer to reality. In the past several years, CORE Diagnostics has established itself as a clear market leader in innovative molecular diagnostics. Oncology has been one of our key focus areas while we have also branched out into other segments where we feel the diagnostics gap is high. Recently, we have partnered with Oncocyte to expand the commercial availability of DetermaRx to India–a unique treatment stratification test that identifies patients at high risk for lung cancer recurrence who may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy post-surgery.

While many companies have become vulnerable since the advent of the COVID-19 situation, we have grown by 100 percent during this time, having now served over 500,000 patients. We strongly believe that the role of diagnostics is critical in containing the pandemic right now. Since March this year, CORE has partnered with several state governments, including Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and Jharkhand, to scale up the testing capabilities of the nation against this pandemic. We have also been working with companies across sectors to help them use a structured approach to COVID-19 testing, helping them restart their businesses while reducing the risk of the spread of infection. We have the complete range of tests–PCR, IgG antibody and total antibody (IgG & IgM) testing–that can help organizations put together a robust mechanism to prevent any accidental spread of the virus on their premises.

In the last few months, our entire team has worked with unparalleled dedication and passion, and this has indeed been a great testament to our company’s culture and ethos. Another significant change we saw was the fast adoption of technological solutions. The high volume of samples that we have been processing pushed us to automate many functions in our lab that will improve our regular operations.

What can we expect in the times ahead?

In the foreseeable future, the diagnostics industry is expected to grow as a result of increased awareness amongst people, better insurance coverage, and rising lifestyle diseases. Having said that, COVID-19 has already set the stage. The smaller labs have limited financial capabilities for advanced equipment. Hence, organized players are expected to register higher growth and the consolidation and acquisition of smaller labs by established ones.

With customers more averse to walking in their local collection centers, we see at-home diagnostics being the way forward. There would be a special focus on the patients’ ease and convenience, translating into a boost in doorstep delivery of end-to-end diagnostic service. To ensure that a patient has a seamless and delightful experience with us is one of our top priorities.

We have put together a cross functional team to look at our customers’ journey, and how we can remove all the pain points they may experience. Whether it’s helping them select the test, collecting the sample, status updates on their reports, or interpreting the results of their tests, we want anyone who experiences CORE’s services to be delighted. We are making significant investments in technology to make this a reality.

I believe this is an incredibly exciting time for our industry in general and for CORE in specific. The role we will play in the next few years in healthcare will be the key to determining where healthcare will go in the future. Diagnostics and the underlying data that we generate and analyze has a tremendous impact on healthcare outcomes. This has only become more evident during the current pandemic. Our primary objective has always been getting the correct diagnostic report to the clinician in the shortest possible time to enable better treatment.

We use patterns and trends in internal data to improve our reports’ quality and continuously look for areas of improvement. On the research front, for many years now, we have been investing in structuring our data and integrating our processes to enable our scientific team to use the data for research purposes. Given that we see a large number of samples for some incredibly rare diseases, we are in a unique position to contribute to a better scientific understanding in India. Our team is focused on some large scale projects in this area over the next few years.

One of the significant developments in our industry this year has been the large scale in which the public healthcare systems and private diagnostic firms have worked together to handle the COVID-19 crisis. We believe this is something that will continue in varying models.

Diagnostics in India is a highly unregulated market. Only a fraction of Tier I and II hospitals and labs have access to the same level of expertise and standards of quality that we see in metro cities. We believe this is an area where we have been able to create significant value. Firstly, by working with hospitals that outsource the managing of their entire laboratory operations to us. This allows the hospital management to focus on patient care while bringing our expertise in running labs right to them. To help small laboratories, we have a program called COREcertify-in which we partner with small labs and upgrade their level of operations. We bring to them the highest standards of quality assurance, training from our scientific team, access to our innovative report formats, technology & & marketing support. We look to expand our reach to smaller cities across India through these offerings.

Through all of this, our focus will always be on the two things that have gotten us to the level of success we have seen so far-our focus on innovation and our unique culture. My focus in the next few years will be to maintain the spirit of innovation across the business-in the tests that we continue to bring to the market, how we work with our client partners and how we are using technology to serve our patients and clinicians. Supporting all of that is our unique work culture driven by no hierarchy, full transparency, and true dialogue.

Diagnostics is an integral part of the healthcare system as without precise identification, there can be no possibility for effective treatment. The increased focus on healthcare will ensure a bright future for the Indian diagnostics industry. I am looking forward to all the opportunities this next phase will bring for CORE Diagnostics.

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