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How diagnostics are revolutionising the testing scenario In India: Focus on future technologies

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Dr Angeli Misra, Director, Lifeline Laboratory talks about the evolution of diagnostic sector in India

Diagnostics are the mainstay of the detection, diagnosis and assessment of any disease. Over 70% of the medical decisions regarding disease treatment, management and prevention are based on diagnostics. They are a crucial tool in preventive healthcare as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an entire paradigm shift in the field of diagnostics, with regard to its scope and capacity. The demand and potential for upgraded equipment received a huge boost. Recognising the enormous potential of the situation, the diagnostics industry was pushed to devise newer and innovative methods for testing, and implement the latest software applications, to scale-up to the demand of the burgeoning volume of tests required to be conducted, with quicker turnaround time, while maintaining a sharp focus on quality control, accuracy and affordability. A case in point is the introduction of the rapid antigen detection test in addition to the molecular tests to detect the presence of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, while bearing in mind the limitations of social distancing in the lockdown scenario, bridging the gap in the demand-supply chain, lack of skilled technicians, and managing and collating a humungous volume of data, while keeping up with the extensively spruced-up research and development in the field. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the level of health awareness, and the need for quality preventive healthcare and health insurance in the most positive manner.

Future technologies

The pandemic scenario is heralding an era of phenomenal revolution in the diagnostics arena, auguring glad tidings for enormous economic growth. The way forward for diagnostics is point-of-care testing,  self testing kits, genome testing and the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytic solutions to cope with the anticipated increase in the total volume of tests in the near future in the wake of a possible third wave and its aftermath.

Robotic process automation has emerged as a logical solution and the true harbinger of this enormous change at high-end diagnostic centers, along with digitization to cover the lacunae in the area of skilled lab technicians and personnel, as well as the delivery of improved precision and quicker results. The concept of cobots (smaller and lighter cooperative robots) is a more viable solution as an assistive tool in lab automation, thereby leading to better staff deployment. Encouraging a shift from manual processing to automated processing by adopting cloud based robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will considerably cut down on human intervention and move from manual processing to automated processing in the areas of sample collection, sample and reagent handling, sample analysis,  and diagnosis. It can further lead to seamless data organization, collation and management, for overall efficiency, precision, accuracy, quality control, and minimized human error in reporting, reducing human exposure to bio-hazards, thereby achieving higher safety standards for long-term economic sustainability. This will positively impact the overall level of health, disease awareness and preventive health strategies and encourage the endeavor towards making diagnostic services available to all sections of society in the remotest parts of the country.

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