Opinion

A push for healthcare

Amit Chopra | Updated on December 15, 2020

Covid has given the medical devices sector a boost

The world is witnessing one of the biggest and toughest health crises in the form of Covid-19. Largely unknown before the outbreak, Covid has moved from a regional crisis to a global pandemic. Millions of people across the globe have succumbed to this pandemic over a span of few months. India has recorded a significant rise in Covid cases with a count of infected patients continuously evolving.

The experiences gained during this time have demonstrated the potential fundamental shifts across the healthcare and well-being continuum. Some of these shifts were underway in the country even before the pandemic and are now getting accelerated. In fact, well in advance of the current scenario, the government recognised the need to reform the existing healthcare industry in the country.

The testimony of this fact lies in the budgetary allocation of ₹690 billion in Budget 2020-21 for this sector. Additionally, the government also announced the expansion of its Ayushman Bharat scheme for setting up of more hospitals in Tier-II/III cities through the public private partnership (PPP) mode and is also working to enhance private participation across the healthcare industry.

Some of the key considerations that have rapidly evolved due to the pandemic are:

The pandemic has highlighted the need to take infectious disease more seriously and calls for a new approach that places predictive and preventative care at the centre of the patient journey. Furthermore, to complement predictive and preventative care, the health policies are re-framed.

The outbreak has consistently emphasised the importance of strengthening regulatory frameworks to ensure an agile, fit-for-purpose ecosystem that enables rapid approval pathways for diagnostics tests.

Diagnostics has a pivotal role to play across the gamut of care. Obtaining timely, patient-level data on emerging threats to global health, including infectious diseases will be crucial. The capture and sharing of patient healthcare data from testing can help in framing disease control strategies, instrumental for improving triage and management of infectious diseases before they become severe outbreaks.

Covid has accelerated the reliance on diagnostics and testing. The focus of the government since the start of the pandemic has been to scale and upgrade testing infrastructure and ensure availability of testing kits. In addition, the Covid laboratories and testing facilities require skilled handling of the samples, adequate knowledge of operating various instruments and accessories, and usage of software for accurate reporting of test results. There is immense need to train staff to efficiently handle samples and operate instruments in multiple shifts to expand the testing capability.

The Covid has given impetus to the local manufacturing capabilities in the country. With the pandemic causing severe supply-chain disruptions, boosting local manufacturing will help in expanding the domestic production and national self-sufficiency for implementing scalable testing strategies.

For instance, the Rockefeller Foundation is funding organisations like The Center for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), Bengaluru, an initiative of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and a member of the Bangalore Life Sciences Cluster (BLiSC). C-CAMP will leverage these partnerships to develop a roadmap to domestically produce RT-PCR testing kits and contribute to ramping up India’s testing capacities.

Lastly, every country needs a plan to scale-up diagnostics deployment as part of their strategy to drive healthcare access. Covid has put greater value on the use of data, evidence, research, and technology to further strengthen our ability to effectively respond to such crises in future.

Through collaborative approach, it is important that the government, healthcare stakeholders and industry work together and drive innovative diagnostic approaches for making resources available and the healthcare ecosystem more agile in the fight against these emerging threats.

The writer is Managing Director, India and Middle East, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Published on December 15, 2020

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