As the healthcare and diagnostics industries continue to expand, it is pertinent to understand the “Lab of the future”. The future of diagnostic labs could be characterized by the following two key features:
- Point of care tests; and
- Personalised precision medicine.
Last few years have seen tremendous investments and advancements in point of care testing. Machines are becoming increasingly smaller and mobile, often handheld, resulting in rapid and very early detection of disease next to the patient in critical care and immunology.
The future of medicine lies in early diagnosis and targeted treatments. The lab of the future would combine medical imaging with lab medicine and genomics, something that Mahajan Imaging & Labs has already ventured into through our latest facility in Safdarjung Development Area, New Delhi. We will be able to predict genetic probability of various diseases including cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease amongst others through genomics. The use of advanced lab medicine will help determine the present biological status of multiple tissues and body parts. And through imaging, both structural and functional we will be able to diagnose early serious diseases. This will also result in predictive medicine and bring in operational efficiencies which will eventually lower cost of healthcare and better quality of life for patients. The huge amount of data from all sources would be processed by Artificial Intelligence at the backend, which would be a routine in the lab of the future.
However, to implement such a vision, the most important factor would be the availability skilled manpower. Labs will require more doctors, scientists and technologists with new skill sets to perform and interpret test results, which warrants a huge amount of investment in setting up teaching and training programmes. The other critical challenge faced would be that of evaluating return of investment on the newer technologies and test that are developed and implemented. It would be critical for labs to keep pace with the latest advancements in technologies and to understand the reimbursement mechanisms.
The biggest advantage that the Lab of the future that we foresee is that diseases would be diagnosed much earlier resulting in optimal treatment outcomes and eventually better quality of life for the patient. Treatment decisions would also be personalised for each patient based on the genetic profile and on past personal & family history, a dramatic shift from the one size fits all approach. Other advantages would be in the form of more affordable and access to diagnostics specially in the smaller cities and towns of India.