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Diagnostic Healthcare: Future Trends

Dr. Angeli Misra, Director, Lifeline Laboratory

By Dr. Angeli Misra

In-vitro diagnostics and imaging diagnostics are the basis of determining the diagnosis of a disease and determining a treatment plan by doctors and medical experts. Moreover, it is an essential preventive healthcare tool for the assessment and monitoring of a patient’s health status and disease prevention. Almost 70% of the clinical decision making in the world depends on in-vitro diagnostics. The diagnostics sector includes clinical chemistry, immunochemistry/immunology, haematology/histology/ cytology, microbiology tests, infection immunology, genetic tests and molecular biology diagnostics.

The most significant current trends in innovative digital technologies in the diagnostics industry which will shape the future of diagnostics are:

1. Laboratory equipment

Analyzer systems, diagnostic equipment, test kits, centrifuge, filtration and water treatment systems, chromatographs, cleaning equipment, drying equipment, homogenizers, cooling systems, microscopes, pH meters, photometers, automatic pipetting and diluting stations, sample distribution systems, analytical balances, microtitre plates, shakers/mixers, automatic dyeing machines, infrared spectrometers, thermostats/temperature measuring instruments, laboratory supplies and furniture and other laboratory equipments have transformed the world of diagnostics. They have paved the way for enormous metamorphosis in the near future.

2. Point of care testing

Point of care testing has become the most significant trend which shall shape the future of diagnostics and healthcare, especially witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Innovative digital technology and portable diagnostic devices have provided simpler solutions (compared to traditional solutions) for quick and accurate testing. They are less time consuming and cost-effective, as they cut down on the test sample travel time and turnaround time (TAT) to provide accurate results.

3. Real-time devices & applications

Health tracking applications and devices that are wearable and implantable (Fitbit, watches, insulin pump, pulse oximeter, etc.) provide comprehensive data (which is stored in the device and easily shareable with doctors) to continuously monitor blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, physical activity, and so on, to effectively manage general health.

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4. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotic process automation

Cobots (collaborative robots which are smaller, lighter and safer than industrial robots) are an appropriate viable solution as an assistive tool in lab automation and imaging diagnostics, sample testing and analysis, besides surgery. Adopting cloud-based robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will considerably cut down on human intervention 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 minimizing error in reporting. It will result in a larger volume of tests, as it can help with a faster turnaround time (TAT), thereby making it cost-effective. AI would also support a much higher level of safety standards by reducing human exposure to bio-hazards, better inventory management, and hugely improved patient services overall. Synchronization of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) with automated processing will significantly enhance overall performance.

5. Predictive genetic tests

An effective life-saving tool for preventive healthcare management, genetic tests on blood, skin, hair, or other tissue can predict the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease. Genetic mutations and disorders which cause many diseases can be predicted long before any symptoms manifest. Based on these tests, timely medical intervention and other preventive treatment measures can be taken.

6. Data analytics IT systems

Advanced data collection, analysis and collation software have given a considerable boost to clinical research and development, which is essential for the way forward in the healthcare industry. Clinical research helps make significant breakthroughs in developing newer medicines and drugs and adequately assess the country’s disease burden and disease trends.