Healthcare industry landscape is shifting significantly over the last couple of years, and we have seen a large scale shift in mindsets from curative to preventive. There has been a major increase in demand for modern healthcare facilities, rise in awareness about diseases, health consciousness among people, increase in per capita income, changing lifestyle, and most importantly a transition in disease profile. The rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancer that account for as many as three of every five deaths – an alarming number given that most NCDs are largely preventable and need only small changes in our lifestyle to prevent them. Now NCDs, like heart disease and diabetes, account for as many as 60 percent of total deaths in the country. This shift places a huge amount of responsibility on the diagnostics sector that has to improve its services both while front-facing the consumers as well as behind the scenes, in the laboratory.
During last year, diagnostics companies ramped up their home collection capabilities significantly in a bid to improve the reach of diagnostic services as well as customer convenience. This is just one of the many new offerings being provided by the diagnostic chains to improve customer service. Diagnostic companies in the country are introducing customized tests and a gamut of various technological innovations to improve reports and advice given to the customers. With the increased importance given to preventive healthcare, it is expected that the pressure on secondary and tertiary healthcare systems would significantly come down. The biggest advantage of moving toward a preventive, rather than a curative, healthcare mindset is that NCDs — such as heart disease, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and diseases caused due to smoking or alcoholism — are invariably tackled first. NCDs tend to have a better chance of reversal if detected and managed early, and the chances of detecting them early are more with a regular preventive health check routine.
Diagnostics companies are the frontline to disease management and have the biggest role to play when it comes to tackling the increasing threat from NCDs that the country is facing. An effective public-private partnership (PPP) model within the wellness outreach where diagnostic test providers can participate effectively will go a long way toward the overall vision of health for all.
When it comes to the year ahead the healthcare fraternity’s expectations encompass new technology, investment, health programs, and PPP. For diagnostic laboratories the main drivers will be the continued focus on preventive healthcare, shorter turnaround time through automation, next-gen logistics network, value-added services like the application of AI for personalizing test packages and qualifying lab reports, home collection of samples, and establishing connect with customers through handheld devices. There is no doubt that the nation needs to shift its focus from curative to preventive healthcare. Accordingly, since diagnostics pave the way to determine the choice of management, the diagnostics industry could be the focal point for driving preventive healthcare in India.
With clinical diagnostics being one of the pillars of healthcare, one key issue that needs to be addressed in the coming years is the regulation and standardization of the diagnostics sector. Mid-sized and small individual labs with a presence in metros, towns, and rural hinterlands dominate the industry in India, as they hold an estimated 85 percent of the market share of the Indian market. On the other hand, in most markets across the globe, the industry is dominated by large organized laboratory chains. As the sector evolves, quality and customer service will become even more important and a wave of consolidation of businesses in the diagnostic industry will follow. Toward this, it is imperative that the government intervene and bring in a regulatory regime and stipulate standardization principles of various diagnostic tests. This will not only ensure a healthier and consequently more productive India but also remove fraudulent fly by night operators from the market.