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The value of diagnostics

Transforming the way diseases can be prevented, diagnosed and monitored

Published 23 June 2021

In a world astonishing for its diversity, there are still visions shared by virtually everyone – especially the vision for a brighter, healthier future. Transforming this vision into reality requires a strong foundation – and that foundation is diagnostics.

The decade of diagnostics

Whether it’s cancer, infectious diseases or other serious health threats, the quest for better solutions to healthcare’s greatest challenges starts with and depends on diagnostics.

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, awareness of the role diagnostic solutions play in disease prevention and management grew profoundly, so much so that some began to refer to 2020 as the launch point for the decade of diagnostics. And as noted in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO), “diagnostic testing has become indispensable for diagnosing and monitoring disease, for providing prognoses and for predicting treatment response.”1

Advanced diagnostic solutions enable patients and their clinicians to make critical decisions earlier, more accurately, and with greater confidence. These solutions help reduce hospitalisation, enable targeted treatment strategies and improve chronic patient management in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

Healthcare systems face increasing pressure to make the most appropriate use of their resources. Early and accurate diagnosis helps patients receive the best possible therapy in a timely manner, which can potentially prevent or slow disease progression and even save lives. Further, it can aid in efforts to increase access to healthcare — translating into better results across the entire healthcare ecosystem.

Empowering patients

Advanced diagnostic solutions don’t just improve the quality of medical care and the efficiency of healthcare systems, they also enable individuals take greater control of their own health. Studies show that patients who are confident in their diagnosis and involved in decisions about their health are more likely to comply with treatment plans and recommended lifestyle changes.2 This can lead to fewer hospitalisations, shorter stays in hospitals and, in patients with chronic health problems, reduced long-term medication use - benefiting patients and society as a whole. Moreover, patients report that having more control over their healthcare improves their mental health and sense of well-being.3

The increasing availability of healthcare apps for smartphones helps identify healthcare problems earlier for faster intervention. Developed jointly by software experts and specialists in diagnostics and pharmaceuticals, these solutions can improve the lives of patients around the world.4

 

Harnessing the power of data and digitalisation

A deepening understanding of molecular science, together with new diagnostic tools and better management of vast sources of data, has sparked a healthcare revolution. Digitalisation, data integration and automation are taking diagnostics beyond the lab and beyond what would have been possible just a few years ago. For example, these innovations translate into greater telemedicine opportunities, which can extend access to advanced medical expertise even in remote areas.5

With billions of test results produced every year, diagnostics has become one of the largest global providers of real-world data. Sharing this data, with patient permission, has the potential to more effectively fight global health threats like the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, early and free exchange of information means that healthcare systems can more quickly identify where and how to target prevention and containment measures.

Digitalisation and automation are transforming laboratories as well, leading to faster turnaround times while significantly decreasing. Greater automation means that medical staff can focus on higher value activities – an important consideration in an era of increasing pressure on healthcare resources and greater strain on healthcare budgets. Automation has led to improved laboratory service through remote diagnosis and repair of equipment problems. Together, advanced automation and digitalisation actually simplify the complexity that healthcare professionals face every day.

Faster, better, sooner

Advanced testing can help catch diseases early, aiding clinicians in making the optimal treatment choices for an individual patient. Screening tests have the potential to identify changes in the body even before the disease occurs.6 Ongoing patient monitoring helps physicians measure treatment effectiveness and identify disease progression before symptoms become apparent.

In oncology, increased access to these diagnostics means that many cancers can be detected before reaching a more advanced, difficult to treat stage. This combination of advanced diagnostics and targeted treatments can, for example, help stop cancer from being one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

When diagnosis and treatment are delayed, opportunities for providing optimal healthcare can be lost forever. By ensuring people get tested and monitored at the right times, diagnostics play a critical role in achieving better patient outcomes. And when people have greater access to life-improving and life-saving diagnostics, the vision of a brighter, healthier world is a major step closer to becoming reality.

References

  1. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. A guide to aid the selection of diagnostic tests. June 26, 2017. Available from: https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/95/9/16-187468.pdf [Internet: Accessed June 21, 2021]
  2. Vahdat S, Hamzehgardeshi L, Hessam S, Hamzehgardeshi Z. Patient involvement in health care decision making: a review. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2014;16(1):e12454. doi:10.5812/ircmj.12454 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964421/pdf/ircmj-16-12454.pdf [Internet: Accessed June 21, 2021]
  3. Foot C, Gilbert H, Dunn J et al. People in control of their own healthcare: the state of involvement. The Kings Fund in association with National Voices. November 2014. kingsfund.org.uk [Internet: Accessed June 21, 2021]
  4. Baxter C, Carroll J, Keogh B, Vandelanotte C Assessment of Mobile Health Apps Using Built-In Smartphone Sensors for Diagnosis and Treatment: Systematic Survey of Apps Listed in International Curated Health App Libraries JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2020;8(2):e16741 URL: https://mhealth.jmir.org/2020/2/e16741 DOI: 10.2196/16741 https://mhealth.jmir.org/2020/2/e16741/PDF [Internet: Accessed June 21, 2021]
  5. The Lancet Regional Health Europe. How digital transformation can help achieve value-based healthcare. April 2021. Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2666-7762%2821%2900077-6 [Internet: Accessed June 21, 2021]
  6. American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer: early detection, diagnosis and staging. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8601.00.pdf

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Tags: Science, Innovation, Society, Patients, Diagnostics