Narendra Varde, MD, Roche Diagnostics, Health News, ET HealthWorld

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Shahid Akhter, Editor, ETHealthworld, spoke with Narendra Varde, MD, Roche Diagnostics to learn about the role and responsibilities of the diagnostics sector during the pandemic and how they helped accelerate change.

The pandemic has completely changed the face of healthcare. What does this change mean for the diagnostics industry? To what extent is it a challenge and an opportunity for the diagnostics industry?

  • The pandemic presented an unprecedented challenge to humanity, especially members of the Health Brotherhood. There was a great responsibility on all of us to expedite access to screening, therapy, vaccination, and critical care. It has highlighted the critical role of diagnostics and raised awareness that goes beyond screening and diagnosis. RT-PCR has entered our everyday lexicon when we talk about the gold standard of screening; Similarly, there is greater clinician awareness of various biomarkers such as D-dimer, IL-6, and ferratin that are used beyond COVID management.

It has opened up opportunities for us to show agility, patient focus and resilience that have never been seen before. In diagnostics, we have recognized the urgent need to equip laboratories so that they can do more in less time. When sample volumes can span multiple lakhs, you need systems that can optimize TAT without compromising test quality. This is easier said than done because such sophisticated tools are not readily available in the country and may not be suitable for smaller laboratories scattered across Tier II and III cities.

Going forward, we see three-pronged opportunities for patients, customers and authorities to show how each of them is influenced by the value of diagnostics.

NITI Aayog indicated in its most recent report that diagnostic and pathology centers will expand in the coming times and that the sector appears to have a bright future. The Indian healthcare industry is reportedly set to reach the $ 372 billion mark by 2022, and the diagnostics market alone is expected to grow to $ 32 billion by the end of 2022. Access to diagnostics outside of large cities will also increase. All of these numbers are driven by the recognition of the importance of diagnostics in preventive healthcare.

The pandemic has taught us to be prepared for any eventuality. How can we try to avoid such occurrences in the future? What changes did you make after the pandemic?
An obvious lesson for nations is to invest in building and democratizing health infrastructure to improve access. In doing so, we have to develop solutions for the healthcare sector that are reliable, scalable, fast and cost-efficient.

Second, the pandemic is a powerful reminder that ignoring science comes with a high cost. Scientists have long warned about infectious diseases, especially since the Ebola, SARS and avian flu outbreaks. It was only last September that the WHO Global Preparedness Monitoring Board issued an authoritative report urging governments to better prepare for such outbreaks. We must shape all aspects of medicine – from clinicians to laboratory medicine – to meet unmet patient needs, prepare for health crises due to lifestyle and climate change, and support informed decision-making.

At Roche Diagnostics, we are once again focusing on innovation and improved access to high quality diagnostic tests that truly align with our vision of doing now what patients need next. For example, we are working with federal and state governments to ramp up molecular diagnostics to improve the screening and treatment of infectious diseases. In fact, we are aware that screening for TB, HIV and other infectious diseases has been adversely affected by the pandemic and will focus on how to reverse this.

We also recognize that there are diseases like Alzheimer’s disease that are diagnosed based largely on cognitive symptoms rather than scientific evidence. We are therefore working to introduce accurate tests in this regard.

What role do you think diagnostics will play in the future of Indian public health?
The pandemic has acted like a catalyst in accelerating innovation in the Indian diagnostics sector. The Indian diagnostic sector has enormous potential to provide great health benefits to the Indian population. The pandemic has made people aware of the importance of early detection. Several studies have shown the health-economic benefits of early detection. We can say with confidence that robust diagnostics will lay the foundation for a powerful public health ecosystem.

What are your plans and how do you intend to contribute to the country’s health sector?
The pandemic has demonstrated the central role of the private sector in building and managing health care. All members of the private healthcare sector, from hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to diagnostic laboratories, have met the need of the hour while protecting the health and safety of their employees.

At Roche Diagnostics, we will accelerate our efforts to work with institutional bodies and national health missions to raise awareness of how we can support their disease management and eradication efforts.

As already mentioned, infectious diseases are a special focus for us; We will continue to innovate and offer superior products that support crowded hospitals and OPDs through laboratory innovations that streamline workflow, reduce inefficiencies, and accelerate clinical decision-making.


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