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Medicine Is Changing, As We Know It

Laboratory systems today and in the future will become the largest source of clinical data and this information will enable them to optimise their role in healthcare delivery model and transform the pathology service of the future

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami


One Way of looking at the future would be to look at the past. Where was medical science 20 years ago and where does it stand today? And then we can come to the discussion of where we would be 20 years from now. We find there is one common strand that runs across medical specialities, across countries and across various sections of society. The medical industry is traditional and typically doctor led. Doctors are the key influencers and decision makers and form an important part in how the industry is moving forward.

In our 30-year experience, it has been our keen observation that majority of doctors are extremely slow in embracing new technology, let alone disruptive and rightly so, because innovations need to be validated and approved. We have even seen global examples of how healthcare companies have tried to disrupt and have actually resulted in losing the trust of the patient, doctor and all stakeholders involved.

Therefore disruptions in healthcare need to be calculated, will be painfully slow and one step at a time. The bright side is that disruptions will result in marked improvement of healthcare systems in three areas; enhancing the experience of care, bettering the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of healthcare. Disruption is happening today but at an incremental speed. Let’s compare 2001 and today. Earlier patients had to visit a clinic to give their blood samples and go back again to the clinic to collect the report. The reports were at times delayed due to a multitude of reasons. A simple blood test and report required three visits to the lab or the clinic.

Today, a patient does not have to step outside his home or office to get any test done. Samples are collected from home and reports are delivered by email to both the patient and the doctor. Reports are faster and more accurate, thus ensuring a reliable diagnosis and better health outcomes for the patient. This is the kind of incremental disruption that the industry is witnessing.

Gene mapping and genomic medicine will see a phenomenal growth in the coming years. There will be a time when clinicians at birth can identify predisposition towards disease through gene mapping which will shift the base of illness-based testing completely. Coming to non-communicable diseases like diabetes and blood pressure, the way these are tested, monitored and tackled may entirely change. In built diagnostic chips can monitor blood glucose levels on an hourly basis than having to draw blood or use a monitoring device. Not only that, we can expect more tests to be performed through smaller amounts of blood samples. A drop of blood will convey a lot of history of the patient and make accurate diagnosis of a host of diseases. The way a laboratory will function from the inside is also set to change; at the pre-analytical, analytical and post analytical stage. Much disruption is already being seen in the analytical and pre-analytical stage. Today more tests are automated than ever and the pre-analytical stage has been to a large extent made patient-centric. Tuberculosis and HIV which used to take up to two weeks to be diagnosed now does not take more than 2 days. Immediate results, more accurate diagnosis are definitely the future.

On the business side, the lab will be an information-driven business with bioinformatics that provides them with the visibility, control and accountability over business processes. Laboratory systems today and in the future will become the largest source of clinical data and this information will enable them to optimise their role in healthcare delivery model and transform the pathology service of the future. Armed with super advanced systems, pathology companies will become the key enablers of changes that will bring about a new age of healthcare delivery.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Ameera Shah

The author is promoter and managing director, Metropolis Healthcare

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