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Perspective on healthcare 2020 and beyond

It is in testing times, humans realize the lacunae they missed in the celebration span.
Healthcare is in an economic boon quoted a healthcare finance magazine in the year 2018. Spending on healthcare, career opportunities, scope for introduction of technological advancements, the need and greed around artificial intelligence, and the power of big data science, have only seen an upward trend.
The developed and rich economies continued to earn with promises on research around better disease management strategies, and faster and robust diagnostic solutions. The know all ride continued until the recent pandemic hit a sour spot. This becomes evident from the immediate knee-jerk reaction exhibited by renowned professionals world over who kept playing the blame game while sidelining the SARS-CoV-2 which has not ceased its attack on the vulnerable even today.
It is the challenges that evoke your true potential and the turbulence that blows away your cloak.
The beginning of the 2020 pandemic was a challenge; because for the majority today, it became the first collective anxiety experience in this lifetime. We did experience the era of swine flu, HIV, and continue to struggle with burden of TB; but this flu pandemic took a toll at another level.
Was it because of the inconsistent initial days remarks from the WHO, or the continuous buildup of focus around uncertainty in mode of transmission, or increasing number of affected? After about two quarters into the pandemic, the focus continues to rest on re-infection rate, post-corona syndrome, and the never-ending wait for the 50 percent effective vaccine. Should we keep buying these ideas going forward?
When the world shut shop, we struggled, yet managed to keep our diagnostic floor working. COVID could be the new entrant, but novid (non-COVID) is a continuous demand.
A diabetic still needs to be monitored and a pregnant lady still needs to be catered to. The fall in business was drastic, but our model and policies around borrowing, managed to keep us going; not to forget the richness of manpower we own.
The wait and slump gradually ended with the introduction of RT-PCR and with antibody testing the entire game plan was back. By dimming the entire furore around the next set of uncertainties that the WHO and media kept feeding, we continued with basic performance check of all the approved kits and prepared the floor for the huge workload we foresaw.
What started with a mere 100 samples for antibody testing in the beginning of June 2020, touched 1000 by June end and today we test an average of over 4000 samples each day.
The community can keep questioning the concept of herd immunity and efficacy of the acquired immunity reality, but our seroprevalence monitoring by the seven day moving average indicates percent positive to have crossed 50 in some states of the country. Our findings only indicate positive news.
So what happens for the next couple of years?
As we see from our decades of experience in diagnostics, the next few years will be focused on infectious diseases though the constant would still be cancer, diabetes and heart ailments.
This becomes very relevant from the fact when suddenly the country rose to comparing TB with covid-19 and identifying parallels. Awareness has risen like never before and so the next will be:
Informed decisions will be drawn-Individuals will identify if a test/procedure in healthcare is recommended out of need or greed;
Delay will become damaging-Investment in IT infrastructure, automations and robust technology will be a need;
Encouragement of manpower-Institutions which empower the manpower from all walks will flourish;
Investments in healthcare will see an upward trend-Market leaders shape an investor’s portfolio and healthcare will grow, but only the worthy will thrive;
Scaring without facts will die out-The population believes they have encountered the worst, and mere scare tactics to mend behavior choices going forward will not work; and
Focus on sanitation measures-The sanitizers are here to stay for long, and affordable alternatives will be the need.
On a lighter note-Appreciation of the little things in life will also become the new normal; unless the past six months have not taught you enough!
What strategies can work for healthcare?
Focus is the only key to foresee beyond what the market leads you to believe. The field of vaccine appears promising, so the bets lie on pharmaceutical companies; but in either case diagnostics is here to stay. For patients and preventive care, for screening and management, to study and research; diagnostics is a multi-faceted healthcare partner. Healthcare should be democratic-For the people and by the people!
Affordability as an asset-Not all molecular tests have to be in thousands. Price for people and not professionals;
Understanding technologies and the need-The contribution of NGS is amazing in science. But in clinical healthcare will a coverage of 10X suffice or a 500X is needed or a 1000X?;
Time the expansion well-Map the lacunae and serve to fill the void; the country needed more life-support systems in the pandemic;
Trust and train your manpower-Creating more job opportunities, and making the youth accountable is a way of sustenance;
Invest in the right things-The world has no way forward but going digital; amp up the IT machinery; and
Become data rich-This is the era where people pay for data. Respect your clients and use their data to serve them well.
The only true challenge is prioritizing. Accept that evolution is a constant process and after the pandemic, it will be the only choice.

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