COVID-19 has taught many a lesson to all stakeholders including policy makers, industry at large and healthcare in particular, citizens and society at large across the globe. While the world recovers toward normalcy, it is actually recovering to a new normal and not necessarily going back exactly to pre-COVID ways of living.
Some of the key learnings for the diagnostics industry, which has an implication on diagnostics infrastructure creation and hence buying of machines, reagents, other consumables, and services, revolve around the themes of:
Diagnostics needs to be accessible/closer to the patient and within the state or even at district level. This will require for newer diagnostics facilities to be created all over the country. Especially in underserved districts of the country. Many such facilities will also come under the PPP model. What used to be high-end tests will now have to be done at a regional/state/district level. It is only a few months back that RT-PCR/molecular diagnostics was being conducted at select institutions. The number of labs either in government or private sector with RT-PCR facility has now gone up multiple times. This will help decentralize and bring closer to the patient what was once selectively available. Similarly, over a period of time, we can expect to see many other tests on RT-PCR or other high-end tests, as well coming closer to the patient.
Given the above scenario, there is likely to be a higher demand/need for mid-range capacity and modularly scalable equipment and not necessarily equipment which are highly automated – very high capacity on one hand or fully manual.
Diagnostics needs to be affordable. India is a very large market with a very varied socio-economic population mix. Health insurance does not cover diagnostics yet in India. However disease burden across communicable and non-communicable is increasing. Given this context, there will be a greater focus on cost optimization across the value chain to keep bringing down the overall cost of delivery and making diagnostics more affordable. Needless to say, all this has to be achieved with zero quality failures. Achieving lower total system costs and higher quality seems like a unsolvable problem at the first go. But to solve this there will be a need for greater collaboration between instrument/reagent manufacturers, service providers including diagnostics and hospital facility operators to eliminate non value adding activities in the value chain.
Another key factor in helping bring down the costs will be around Make in India theme. Local manufacturing should see an increasing trend over the medium term and this can help drive input costs down.
Service delivery monitoring and analytics. This is a relatively new area for most players in diagnostics. COVID-19 management in India has been possible only due to a significant use of digital technology and analytics across the board. Diagnostics equipment which allow integration with various IT and digital solutions will be preferred. With increased digitization also comes the need for patient data privacy management. Given the complexity of our socio-economic landscape this is an interesting challenge to solve for the whole of healthcare sector as well as the country and its policy makers.
This phenomenon of digitization will only accelerate into the future, given the expectations from government, patients, and society at large.
COVID-19 has brought the topic of healthcare challenges not only in India but the entire world to the fore. The awareness levels across all stakeholders on the need for a healthy lifestyle, role of diagnostics and treatment management has gone up significantly. This will have a positive impact on the number of people getting tested for both communicable as well as non-communicable and lifestyle-related health conditions. Volume growth will accelerate. However, along will come the need to take the testing closer to the patient, making it more affordable and managing a digital ecosystem.
At Dr Lal PathLabs, we are focused on putting into practice the above to support the community at large in their hour of need.