COVID-19 pandemic has been our time to support labs and ICUs whenever they need us

The increased hospitalisation of patients in ICUs during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surged demand in clinical biomarkers like D-dimer, CRP, besides blood gas testing. Narrating how Radiometer had to accordingly increase production capacity to meet this surged demand, Soumitra Dev Burman, Senior Director, Sales – High Growth Markets and Pacific – Radiometer Medical, explains to Viveka Roychowdhury why he believes that this pandemic has awakened the need to strengthen our healthcare ecosystem and be prepared for any such future disruptions

Experts are warning that India’s second COVID-19 wave had many more patients requiring prolonged ICU
care. As pioneers in blood gas testing, which is now a critical part of point of care diagnosis in critical care settings, how has Radiometer responded to the evolving requirements of clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our value proposition is ‘Whatever comes next, we make sure life always comes first.’ Our team in India lives this value proposition passionately. Our response is nothing different from the purpose for which we exist. Radiometer’s products and solutions help diagnose and care for critically ill hospital patients by providing fast, accurate information on a variety of blood gas and immunoassay parameters. This COVID-19 pandemic has been
our time to show up on the field and support the labs and ICUs whenever they need us.

Monitoring of arterial blood gases is considered routine for the management of any critically unwell patient, regardless of the underlying condition. Results from a blood gas analyser also benefitted the clinicians by providing a rapid assessment of electrolyte status, which is often abnormal in patients with severe disease.

During COVID-19 pandemic, we saw increased hospitalisation of patients in ICUs and there have been prolonged admissions too based on the severity of the disease. During those times, besides blood gas testing we also experienced an increased demand in clinical biomarkers like D-dimer, CRP. These biomarkers were also made a part of the treatment protocol by ICMR for the critically ill COVID-19 patients. Radiometer had to accordingly increase the production capacity to meet the surged demand of these biomarkers for the patients in need. Those were certainly testing times, but I am glad that we were able to contribute in our best capacity to meet the needs and will continue to do so forthwith.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the testing requirements of India’s healthcare fraternity, with respect to other countries?

There were some common risk factors or comorbidities that severely ill COVID-19 patients show like age, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and respiratory system disease. It has an impact on the immune system, coagulation system and respiratory system, amongst others.

It is now readily apparent that COVID-19 is not a clearcut disorder but is instead a gradually evolving pathology
characterised by a series of stages sustained by different molecular and biological mechanisms. Several biomarkers have shown to provide clinical value as they correlate with disease severity and mortality in the COVID-19 patients. Be it the diagnosis of the disease to monitoring its progression, prediction of treatment response and risk stratification, the laboratory biomarkers have been guiding clinicians to take informed medical decisions and guide therapy for patients.

With time and with more research and with different strains of COVID-19 emerging in different parts of the world,
many protocols and line of treatments have come forth – even the best protocols and practices have evolved. It is purely a clinician’s prerogative but that is within the guidelines laid down by the competent body. Whatsoever, the importance of accurate and timely diagnosis has clearly been established not just in India, but globally.

What are the pressures on India’s healthcare system that are unique to India? As a leading medical device company, what are the solutions that Radiometer contributes to patient care and helping India’s clinicians get better patient outcomes?

India is unique and hence the pressure on India’s healthcare system would be unique too. It is impossible to imagine the pressure experienced in the healthcare system with unprecedented rise in the number of COVID-19 cases that necessitates hospitalisation.

Approximately 50 per cent of patients with confirmed COVID-19 have shown evidence of elevated cardiac biomarkers at the time of hospital admission.

Likewise, there has been a need to constantly monitor complete blood count, coagulation, respiratory function, inflammation, infection or cardiac injury during hospitalisation of critically ill patients. Our Blood Gas Analysers and Immunoassay Analyser offers an array of tests in the category of critical care testing. Our offering of quantitative testing of Troponin-I, Troponin-T, NTproBNP, PCT, D-Dimer and CRP with whole blood having a turnaround time of less than 20 minutes is something that can certainly help clinicians with a better patient outcome.

What are the key factors that are vital or play a vital role in emergency and critical care?

In emergency and critical care, time is life. Turnaround time and accuracy of diagnosis of condition is pivotal. The clinical values from the diagnosis helps in correlating with the severity and complexity of the disorder in the patients. Results of diagnosis guides the clinicians in such set-ups to diagnose a condition accurately, decide appropriate line of treatment, monitor the progression, and alternate the line of treatment quickly in case such a need arises.

What is your vision for emergency services in the context of preparing India’s healthcare ecosystem for future pandemics and disruptions?

COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for most healthcare systems. We are brought face to face with some of the harshest realities – preparedness to face such situations, being one of those.

The entire world got impacted but what India experienced during its second wave hurts to the core. There was a dire need to provide emergency services to such a vast population. Many expressed their outrage and highlighted several flaws and inadequacies in the healthcare system in India.

My salute to the frontline healthcare warriors who were always at the forefront, working relentlessly saving the lives of people and saving families. However, I also believe that this pandemic has awakened the need to strengthen our healthcare ecosystem and be prepared for any such future disruptions.

I envision a future where technology can connect the missing elements. Being a provider of powerful acute care diagnostic solutions, our belief llies in creating a seamless relationship between people and technology. In emergency set-ups, time is of the essence. Establishing the importance of point of care testing that provides fast and reliable results is the need of the hour. Access to patients’ reports on the go can help clinicians diagnose faster, save time, optimise resources, and provide timely intervention and control mortalities. Remote access to patients’ reports will be a boon. Remote monitoring of devices by technical experts allows reduced downtime and diagnose and resolve errors without having to travel to the site. Efforts on minimising time and resources will be a great step ahead towards preparedness.

What is the forecast for the critical care diagnostics market in India and globally?

All pundits have gone wrong and I don’t take a guess on the forecast because we don’t know, what comes next. But we assure, we will ensure life comes first for us.

COVID-19 pandemiccritical care diagnosticsRadiometer MedicalSoumitra Dev Burman
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