Technology Innovations Transforming Indian Diagnostics Sector

Anand K, MD & CEO, Agilus Diagnostics

 AI, machine learning, CDSCO, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)

Anand engaged in a conversation with Thiruamuthan, Correspondent, India Pharma Outlook magazine to share insights on how modern technologies like AI are revolutionizing India's diagnostic sector by enhancing accuracy and efficiency. He is an experienced leader with over 25 years of experience in healthcare and diagnostics. He has received several industry awards as a distinguished leader in the diagnostic industry.





Could you provide insights into how technology innovations are currently shaping the Indian healthcare sector, particularly in diagnostics, and what trends are emerging to streamline diagnostic processes?

There are multiple technological advancements that are shaping the diagnostic industry. Going forward, integrated diagnostic platforms will emerge that will allow the integration of various diagnostic tools and data sources into a unified system that will enable healthcare professionals and clinicians with a comprehensive view of a patient’s health status and clinical history. Lab processes itself is undergoing swift automation and digitalization that ensures efficiencies and reduces errors. 


How are emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and data analytics being leveraged to enhance diagnostic accuracy and efficiency in India's healthcare sector?

AI algorithms are being developed to analyze digital pathology images of tissue samples, aiding pathologists in identifying cancerous cells, tumor margins, and other pathological features. Machine learning models can detect subtle patterns and anomalies that may be missed by human observers, improving diagnostic accuracy and efficiency in pathology laboratories. AI and machine learning techniques are being used to analyze genomic data and identify genetic variations associated with diseases and conditions. These analyses can help diagnose genetic disorders, predict disease risk, and personalize treatment plans based on an individual's genetic profile, leading to more precise and effective healthcare interventions.


What regulatory challenges and opportunities exist for the integration of cutting-edge diagnostic technologies into India's healthcare infrastructure?

In India, a lack of regulation governing the diagnostic industry is impeding its growth and expansion. Today we do not have minimum standards enforced on laboratories which are creating a lacunae and disparity in the quality of lab processes and laboratory test reports. Accreditations such as the one offered by NABL offer a way to regulate lab processes. The use of the LOINC system to standardize test codes across the nation will enable population health trends at a larger scale. This can help in delivering customized care to the masses. 

Taking a cue from the CLIA standards in the US for lab-developed tests, our regulatory bodies like CDSCO can open up the regulatory framework that will help laboratories build indigenous tests customized to the Indian population, encourage more research, and foster innovation. This will reduce our dependence on imported kits for laboratory tests. India could become self-reliant in test kits in a few years with the right kind of support from the policymakers and the government.


Can you discuss notable examples of indigenous innovation driving advancements in diagnostics within the Indian healthcare ecosystem?

The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, launched by the Indian government, is a transformative initiative aimed at revolutionizing healthcare delivery in India through digitalization. At its core, the mission seeks to create a unified digital health ecosystem, enabling a seamless exchange of health information and services across the country. It encompasses various components such as the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), which aims to establish a digital health infrastructure comprising personal health records, unique health IDs, and telemedicine services.

One of the key objectives of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is to empower citizens with greater control over their health data while ensuring its security and privacy. By digitizing health records and implementing interoperable systems, the mission aims to streamline healthcare delivery, reduce inefficiencies, and improve access to quality healthcare services, especially in remote and underserved areas. Additionally, the initiative aims to facilitate better coordination among healthcare providers and enable evidence-based policymaking through data analytics. Overall, the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission represents a significant step towards leveraging technology to achieve the goal of Universal Health Coverage in India.


How do telemedicine platforms intersect with diagnostic innovations, and what role do they play in expanding access to diagnostic services across India?

Today a patient can book lab tests comfortably from home, avail of home sample collection, and reports are digitally delivered to the patient and clinician. Healthcare professionals remotely monitor their patients through integrated telemedicine platforms and order more diagnostic tests if required. Availing a second opinion on cancer diagnosis has now become easier through digital pathology platforms. Telemedicine platforms make it possible to triage patients efficiently and ensure that those in need of diagnostic evaluation receive timely guidance.


In what ways do collaborations between academia, industry, and government contribute to fostering technological innovation in the Indian diagnostics sector, and what are the key success factors?

For the diagnostic industry, it is time the government looks at minimum quality standards for the industry and also appoints a nodal agency to standardize lab tests across the country. Standardizing test codes by adopting LOINC Codes and homogenizing lab report formats can help patients as well as clinicians. India should also open up the regulatory framework to build indigenous lab tests customized to the Indian population. This requires collaborations between academia, industry, and the government. More needs to be done to encourage and foster innovation. India could become self-reliant in test kits in a few years with the right kind of support from the policymakers and the government.

Policymakers can customize health delivery to districts, cities, and towns by harnessing the big data generated by laboratories. PPPs for such collaborations could be useful as labs can provide actionable health insights that can improve the health indicators of a particular state. We also hope that the government will look at instituting an official council that can help establish the credibility and credentials of medical laboratory professionals and allied health professionals. In the absence of any regulatory legal mechanism to oversee the educational and professional standards, educational institutions have been mushrooming unabatedly across the country. As seen during the pandemic, doctors, medical lab and allied health professionals are the backbone of the industry and it is important to provide avenues for up-skilling and reskilling by way of continuous technical education.

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