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The new world of diagnostics after the pandemic

Indian healthcare comprises of hospitals, diagnostics, devices including wearable and POCs, clinical trials, telemedicine, medical tourism, wellness, and health insurance. It is India’s fourth largest sector not only in terms of revenue but employment too. Also, it is growing at a rapid pace due to its geographic spread, improved services, increasing investments and expenditure, rising income levels, and ageing population. The growing health awareness and changing attitude toward preventive healthcare is expected to boost healthcare services demand in future
Indian healthcare has two major delivery components: public and private. The government (public healthcare system) comprises of few secondary and tertiary care facilities in key cities and with focus on basic healthcare facilities via primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in rural areas. The private sector provides majority of secondary, tertiary, and quaternary care institutions with major concentration in metros and tier I and tier II cities. It is now growing to tier 3 cities where there is a strong demand for quality health services.
India’s competitive advantage lies in its large pool of well-trained medical professionals, and high-quality services, almost at par with global standards. Indian healthcare has strong fundamentals and cost advantage too.

As per market reports, the healthcare market can increase three-fold to Rs. 8.5 trillion by 2022. The low cost of medical services has resulted in a rise in the country’s medical tourism, attracting patients from across the world. Though Indian medical tourism market got badly affected due to pandemic, but it is likely to grow by 18 percent as conditions improve. Moreover, India has emerged as a hub for R&D activities for international players due to its relatively low cost of clinical research. The government’s expenditure on healthcare sector is now growing. Health insurance too is gaining momentum. Hospitals and diagnostic centres have attracted fair amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), due to favourable government policies coupled with promising growth prospects.

Pandemic has created havoc, but they say, nature throws challenges only after it gives you the ability to overcome it. One must have faith and keep moving ahead. In business up and downs are inevitable, the wisdom lies in staying firm in your resolve to move forward and not getting disheartened by the setbacks
Healthcare is traditionally seen as, a fragmented industry with hyperlocal challenges and solutions but now it’s looking forward to rapid digitisation, increasing demands and expectations from well informed and connected consumers, coupled with shrinking resources.

The COVID-19 pandemic and growing uncertainty has exposed the fragility of global health systems. The crisis has presented us with an opportunity to rethink, redesign and restart, healthcare delivery processes and systems, and maximise the adoption of digital technology in routine service delivery and management. There is a silver lining in the form of a renewed impetus to healthcare innovation. As we move ahead, disruptive value-based innovation–will shape the future of healthcare.

COVID-19 is the enemy while the entire healthcare system and its stakeholders are together fighting hard to overcome its destruction. Diagnostic providers have now come into forefront and are playing a very strong role to play. Needless to say, the diagnostic provider’s specially the pathology labs are like investigating teams, responsible for determining this enemy’s strength, intent, characters, and capabilities. Technological advancements today are changing the game for pathologists, acting as a powerful enabler in the gathering, processing and transmitting the right information in a time and in an efficient manner.

Digital platforms and allied technologies are now must in diagnostics. The bioinformatics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are now playing an important role.
The sophisticated diagnostic tools, molecular and genetic tests are now in demand and are helping in improving treatment outcomes and early prediction. The aim of diagnosis is to get the disease diagnosis correct, the very first time. We are looking for finer and final personalised diagnosis. The growth in biomedical knowledge is adding a layer of complexity for medical professionals. The amount of data we have, needs to be read and analysed well. The magnitude of evidence-based knowledge which a pathologist needs to obtain, learn, process and, most importantly, apply in their day-to-day practice, is simply impossible to keep up with as an individual. The pathologists have to invest now in clinical decision support (CDS) tools which will help them to make clinical sense of the diverse information and support the new era of precision medicine.

With precision medicine, pathologists today must be able to integrate information derived from various tests and correlate it with clinical information. This means that pathologists will need to leave the laboratory and play a more active role in clinical decision-making at the bedside and redefine themselves as clinical solution provider.
There is growing uncertainty around the role of AI and its true impact on pathology. It is important to appreciate that AI-based technologies or machines can never replace pathologists. Instead, such innovations will help in augmenting the decision-making capabilities of pathologists and helping them perform better and faster.
With infectious diseases coming back to focus, there is growing demand for molecular microbiology and associated technologies like RTPCR, sequencing, logistics, and biosafety support systems. Rapid or POC testing systems, are back in focus. Every healthcare provider is investing into them and looking forward to embracing them, as we progress. Express labs or neighbourhoods’ labs are now continuously upgrading their platforms and adopting automation. Digital pathology as in knocking at our door and being practiced more. Future is going to be a boom time diagnostic devices industry, which is bound to grow at a rapid pace.

With renewed focus on wellness and immunity, the preventive health checks, homecare, new wellness and other biomarkers will be in demand. Timely communication of a result is the key to success. Pandemic has led to more acceptability of App based communication and skill development solutions. The future of diagnostics and healthcare is full of disruptive innovation, increased devices demand finer testing technologies and rapid/point-of-care or home care solutions. Adoption of information technology is must for survival now.
There is growing role of new digital technologies in strengthening health systems but, we cannot negate the importance of sustainable non-digital approaches. A healthy integrated mix of old and new will work well. For full success of these technologies, a timely adoption by healthcare providers is must and will play an important role in shaping the future of healthcare systems as we negate the COVID-19 pandemic.

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