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Coronavirus- an opportunity to reshape the preventive health care sector

The COVID pandemic has brought changes in the health check ups pattern and the concept of wellness and preventive health is still evolving in the healthcare management ecosystem, explains Arjun Ananth, CEO, Medall Diagnostics

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In a very unfortunate way, what the pandemic has done is embed the word co-morbidities in our minds. If you asked me one year back, this word would not have figured in my conversation. But today, this is the one talking point as it is the primary cause behind fatalities. Diabetes, hyper tension, obesity are the major co-morbidities that have resulted in fatalities during the pandemic. All of these when detected early and with appropriate changes in lifestyle can be reversed.

The concept of wellness and preventive health is still not fully understood in our ecosystem. We go into a pathology clinic when we have a problem, rarely do we go into one to find out if things are okay. This requires a change in mindset. The common person believes that ignorance is bliss. There is also a bias where in some think that an adverse finding will be thrust upon them.

Diagnostic companies have a huge role to play in propagating the importance of preventive checks and in removing biases. Wellness is the next big opportunity on the horizon. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure and prevention is cheaper than cure.

Prevention and timely intervention remove complexities during hospitalisation and in some cases could prevent hospitalisation itself. Once a person has crossed a certain age, say 30, it is imperative that they undergo master health checks on an annual basis. Understanding where they stand with respect to organs is important.

There is also a misconception that a blood test or a panel of blood tests is sufficient. In my view, it is not and one must look for an integrated diagnostics solution. In fact, even during COVID, it was the chest CT that gave the doctors clues in treatment. Be it an X Ray or a mammo gram or an ultrasound or an echo cardiogram, these modalities are extremely important in diagnosis. In addition to the chemical changes in the blood, it is important to understand structural changes in organs.

Fear of the unknown is the biggest factor. The second is price or cost. The third is probably inertia. As diagnostics providers, we should aim to remove all three. Social campaigns to propagate the need for health checks, making them affordable and making them accessible and convenient will go a long way in improving the penetration.

Technology has a key role to play. Today with tele-consultation, health trackers / wearables, smart watches and phones, the ability to track certain drivers of health are available off the shelf. For diagnostic service providers, reports are delivered online, trends are available in the apps and the entire service and delivery mechanism are through the digital means.

If wellness and preventive health needed a catalyst, the time is now. At Medall, we introduced a whole new redesigned set of packages to address the preventive health need of various age groups and genders.
We should also look beyond diagnosis. Most lifestyle disorders like obesity, diabetes etc. can be reversed through changes in lifestyle.

The change in lifestyle is more economical and sustainable when compared to cost of treatment. It is always better to eradicate the root cause than treat the symptom. At Medall, with this in mind, we introduced Blume, a cutting-edge monthly subscription programme to help people reverse lifestyle diseases. This is entirely digital, economical and flexible to the end customer. The engagement is continuous and aided by IOT devices.

Mental wellness is another issue that needs to be addressed. COVID has increased stress not only for those who have ben affected but also for many for whom social connections have been kept to a minimum.

Mental health has significant impact on physical health and the mind body connection is only now beginning to be talked about. At Medall, we have a division called Medall Mind, which deals with mental health assessments and counselling. We are also the only diagnostics provider that has incorporated mental health in our annual master health checks.

As fear of stepping out subsides, as people gain confidence, it is believed that people will turn their focus on preventive health checks. Price, convenience, technology, comprehensiveness and accessibility are important for people to make this a habit a periodic habit that helps save lives; a habit that helps people stay healthier; a habit that reduces burden. Master health checks need to be part of everyones annual calendar.

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