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Field of diagnostics holds a promising future, all stakeholders must strive for excellence, ET HealthWorld

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Mumbai: Dr Sushil Shah, Chairman, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd interacted with Prabhat Prakash of ETHealthworld on the growth of the diagnostics industry, the advancements that have impacted patient care and the research and development activities they are conducting to stay at the forefront of diagnostic innovation.

What factors have contributed to the success of your organisation?

Integrity plays a paramount role in the success of Metropolis Healthcare. We prioritise maintaining 100 per cent integrity by strictly adhering to ethical standards and regulatory guidelines across all of our laboratory operations. In addition to integrity, our constant dedication to providing exceptional patient care and maintaining quality control has been critical to our success. We recognise how important is to provide accurate and reliable reports to doctors and patients who entrust us with their diagnostic needs. We believe it is extremely important to uphold the trust that customers have placed in us, by ensuring that the reports are error-free.

What are the key challenges you have faced in the diagnostics industry, and how have you overcome them?

Establishing trust and credibility with the doctors and patients is extremely crucial for any diagnostic laboratory to thrive in the industry. Doctors play a key role in test referrals, and developing positive and long-term connections with them can take 20-35 years. As a result, the growth of laboratories in this industry is often slow with a typical timeframe of 35-40 years to achieve recognition as a top-tier facility. To accelerate this journey and achieve significant milestones in a shorter period, it becomes imperative to adopt a unique and differentiated approach. One established technique is to focus on developing strong relationships with doctors and providing them with accurate and comprehensive diagnostic analyses that can help them make better treatment decisions. Engaging in proactive regular communication, delving into the facts, and providing accurate responses to their queries has aided us in developing trust from the beginning, laying a solid foundation for collaboration. On the other hand, when patients visit a healthcare facility, they expect to be treated with compassion and attention. While accurate test findings are expected from any reputable laboratory, the guidance provided along with the results to patients holds great significance. By prioritising both aspects – accurate reports and informed guidance – we strive to address all concerns comprehensively. Technology has played a crucial role in advancing diagnostics. What role does technology play in the operations and services of your organisation?

Technological advancements have had a profound impact on the field of diagnostics, leading to notable improvements in accuracy, efficiency, and accessibility. We recognise the pivotal role that technology plays in its operations and services. Manual processes were prevalent before the arrival of technology and even computers in the 1970s. This era was distinguished by a high rate of errors caused by human factors, such as improper data entry or other manual errors. However, with the integration of technology, many of these concerns have been effectively eliminated. Manual errors, also known as pre-or post-testing errors, have significantly decreased due to the implementation of automated systems. Manual methods, such as pipetting and inconsistent sampling, have given way to automated systems that provide precision and regulation. As a result, when a machine generates a diagnostic report, adhering to defined processes and quality control procedures ensures that the results are accurate. Therefore, the necessity for repetitive testing is now driven primarily by pre-testing concerns, such as the quality of the sample obtained from external sources.

We prioritise accuracy by requesting new samples in cases where the initial sample is deemed inadequate, thereby ensuring the reliability of the test results. By leveraging technology and implementing automated systems, we have effectively reduced manual errors, enhanced the quality control process, and improved the overall accuracy of its diagnostic services. These advancements have contributed to greater confidence in the reliability of reports, ultimately benefiting patient care and outcomes.

What are the key advancements or trends in the diagnostics industry that have significantly impacted patient care?

The utilisation of digital technology has facilitated the emergence of diagnostic trends that are shaping the future of healthcare. Automation has emerged as a major development in pathology, considerably improving operational efficiency. Technical errors that were previously observed during human operations have been effectively eliminated by the adoption of automated systems. Another significant innovation is the integration of machinery and computer systems, which eliminates the possibility of discrepancies that could arise while manually transmitting reports. By eliminating these interfaces, the possibility of incorrect data input has been considerably minimised. Furthermore, established techniques have played an important role in enhancing diagnosis accuracy. Various industry bodies including the College of American Pathologists and the National Board of Laboratories in India have formulated guidelines and protocols that must be adhered to when certain conditions are encountered. Compliance with these guidelines has proven instrumental in minimising errors within laboratory practices. These requisitions have become essential and are now commonly followed in the industry. In addition, the training of laboratory technicians has undergone notable advancements. Previously, due to a lack of formal courses, technicians received practical training solely within laboratories, leading to a higher occurrence of errors. However, the establishment of technician courses has bridged this gap by providing structured training programmes. As a result, technicians now possess enhanced skills and exhibit error-free work. Overall, the diagnostic industry has witnessed significant progress due to digital technology and related advancements. Automation, standardised processes, and improved technician training have collectively contributed to more accurate and efficient diagnostic practices.

Could you provide some insights into the research and development activities being conducted to stay at the forefront of diagnostic innovation?

We have established a reputation for having an exceptional test portfolio and innovation, particularly in the realm of introducing new diagnostic tests. We take pride in offering a comprehensive test menu that spans an impressive 4,500 plus different tests, a stark contrast to the more limited selection typically found in standard laboratories, which typically offer around 200 to 300 tests. This extensive range of tests sets us apart and allows us to meet the diverse needs of our patients. To achieve this, we have a dedicated research and development department responsible for developing and standardising these tests before making them available to the general public. The process of developing and standardising each test is a rigorous one, involving significant time and effort. On average, it takes approximately four to six months for a single test to undergo the necessary development and standardisation processes. Given the significance of this work, our research and development department is fully equipped and staffed to meet these demands. We are continuously exploring the possibility of offering new tests that are not currently available anywhere else in the world. This unique capability has even led to American laboratories seeking our expertise for specific testing requirements, reaffirming our leadership in the field. Additionally, we actively engage in a substantial number of clinical studies in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. These studies involve conducting trials as part of our research initiatives. This involvement in clinical research further amplifies our expertise and provides valuable insights that contribute to the development of approximately 500 new tests annually. Undoubtedly, the development of these 500 new tests necessitates extensive research, investigation, and standardisation procedures before they are introduced to the public.

What advice would you give to aspiring professionals looking to enter the diagnostics industry in India?

The diagnostics industry has witnessed substantial growth and holds immense potential for those seeking to establish a presence. However, following the conventional path of starting a laboratory and gradually building a reputation through collaborations with doctors and other traditional means can be time-consuming. It typically takes around 30-35 years for a laboratory to establish itself as a trusted and competent pathology laboratory. Consequently, there is a considerable waiting period before recognition is attained. To expedite this process and stand out from the competition, adopting an innovative and differentiated approach becomes crucial.

One good method is to focus on a certain area of expertise and aim for mastery in that domain. The likelihood of success increases greatly by specialising in a niche sector, such as microbiology, biochemistry, neurological tests, or gastrointestinal diagnostic methods, and having in-depth knowledge in that discipline. Focusing on a specialised market segment allows for differentiation and the opportunity to provide unique offerings compared to competitors. This specialisation strategy enables the creation of a distinct value proposition, setting the laboratory apart from others in the industry. It is essential to recognise that pursuing a broad, general approach may not yield the desired results. Therefore, the advice is to specialise in a specific area and develop expertise within that realm.

What is your vision for the future of diagnostics in India, and how do you see Metropolis Healthcare playing a role in shaping that future?

The field of diagnostics holds a promising future, and all stakeholders must strive for excellence in delivering high-quality diagnostic services. Today, the focus should be on providing great services that truly meet the needs of patients and healthcare providers, rather than just offering routine tests. The increasing demand for diagnostic tests from doctors and the emergence of new tests further reinforce the positive trajectory of the industry. These advancements in diagnostics play a crucial role in improving patient care and treatment outcomes. A testament to the progress in medical care and diagnostics can be seen in the increase in average life expectancy. In the past, during India’s independence, the average social life expectancy was merely 39 years. Today, it has surpassed 65 years and continues to rise. This significant improvement can be attributed to the advancements in medical care and diagnostics, which enable the early detection and treatment of various health conditions. As we detect these issues at earlier stages, it paves the way for timely interventions and improved health outcomes. Looking ahead, I anticipate that in the next decade, the average life expectancy could reach 75 years, and with an ageing population, the demand for innovative diagnostic tests will continue to grow. Considering this positive outlook, the future of the diagnostics industry appears highly promising. As industry leaders and innovators, we are committed to being at the forefront of this transformative change. We aim to actively contribute to the development of innovative and advanced diagnostic tests that cater to the evolving needs of patients and healthcare providers. By embracing innovation and staying abreast of emerging trends, we position ourselves as key players in shaping the future of diagnostics.

  • Published On Jun 30, 2023 at 08:07 PM IST

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