Diagnostic sector has seen a major transformation in the COVID-19 testing space. With coronavirus cases nearing 3 lakhs daily during the ongoing third wave of infections, Ameera Shah, Promoter and Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, in a candid conversation with Business Today, talked about the diagnostics sector meeting the rising demands of COVID-19 testing, expansion plans of the company, third wave and way forward. Edited excerpts.
BT: What are the growth and expansion plans of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. in 2022?
Ameera Shah (AS): Over the next 3 years, we plan to focus on our expansion in Tier II and Tier III cities in India, by adding 90 more labs and about 1,800 service collection centres in 100 to 150 more cities in India. We are also deepening our presence in multiple cities across the country and will continue to provide healthcare services to close to 220 cities through different patient service networks. We have recently acquired the largest diagnostic chain in South India – HiTech Diagnostic Centre to gain larger market share, strengthen our leadership presence in South India and increase the B2C share of the business by catering to the mid-segment of the market.
As a scientific-driven healthcare organisation, Metropolis will continuously invest in R&D and constantly look out for opportunities in bringing advanced tests and technologies and, thereby, improve its test menu and range of services. In addition, with our deep scientific knowledge and expertise, we will also look out for opportunities to offer more ‘affordable’ healthcare to patients across the country. We are also working towards expanding our capabilities in Molecular Diagnostics, Oncology, Cytogenetic etc. We have also evaluated and invested in a separate health tech business so that it creates a growth engine for the organisation in future.
We will also continue to strengthen our digital presence as we believe that the major chunk of revenues will be coming through various digital channels. We will also be investing in digital technologies to further improve our internal processes, increasing productivity and offering a better customer experience.
BT: What is the significance of digitalising the healthcare ecosystem?
AS: The advent of the COVID-19 made it imperative to technologise the healthcare ecosystem. When ‘contactless’ and ‘keep at distance’ were the most used terms, technology ensured the two hold true to their meaning.
Digitalising the healthcare sector with convenient devices and services opens door for efficient management. Costs are controlled, patient footfall is managed, and timely diagnosis takes place without compromising on the quality. Currently, India is still dependent on imports for certain resources, but we have the minds and capacity to manufacture in-house.
The government too has been proactive to launch the Privacy Data Protection (PDP) bill and the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). Eventually, all the factors add up to provide us with a competent healthcare ecosystem.
BT: What are the measures undertaken by the diagnostic companies to combat the ever-evolving variants?
AS: The diagnostic companies have rapidly expanded to keep pace with the increasing demand for testing volumes. Moreover, with people being more aware and serious about personal health, diagnostics have equally expanded to provide the best solutions in the non-covid testing segments.
To identify the variants of concern, the technology used for sequencing matters the most. Many labs have upgraded their resources to serve the nation at this time. Besides, the services have been brought to the homes, so the least chances of infection occur. The turnaround time has been cut to the bare minimum and special testing packages have also helped ensure familial health without burning a hole in people’s pockets.
On the other hand, non-COVID testing volumes have seen a surge, where regular check-ups have gained popularity. It is assuring to help the nation, one individual at a time.
BT: How is the diagnostic sector an epicentre of awareness for infectious diseases including coronavirus?
AS: Identification of the root cause of any disease is a battle half won. That is where the diagnostics sector comes in. We not only identify the root cause but also study patterns and are able to suggest preventive measures to curb the situation.
The information, hence gathered, can be relayed to respective sectors of clinicians, pharma, disease expert etc. to nip the problem right at the bud. The study of long-term data equally helps the government to mandate well-informed city-specific or nationwide decisions and protocols.
BT: How much has the non-COVID business been affected because of the third wave?
AS: The non-COVID testing saw a major setback during the first wave of COVID as people were in panic mode and avowing to step out of their homes. In the second wave, people knew how to ensure safety as well as get things done. This helped the non-COVID business to grow sustainably. However, due to third wave, we see a higher demand in COVID tests and the footfalls and demands for non-COVID tests has slightly come down. Business Today