Dr Rachna Singh, HOD Laboratory and Blood Bank, National Heart Institute

Despite the demon of demonetization threatening to slow down the economy and the general mayhem of GST, Indian healthcare industry is poised to take off in a big way in the coming decade. The technology boom and increased accessibility have enabled the consumer/patient to ask for and afford quality healthcare. The lab industry too has shown a steady and impressive growth over the last decade.

As a pathologist, with more than one and half decade in lab medicine, I have seen huge emphasis on quality and technology in the recent years. Gone are the days when, anybody could think of opening a lab and expect it to run successfully. The corporatization of laboratory has been one of the big changes in this field. Other than the analytical upgrades in lab; in the coming years, the focus would be mainly on the infrastructure, ease of availability, and patient services. A medical test will have to be a high-end product not only in terms of medical utility but also costing, turnaround time, quality, and patient experience.

Today more than 70 percent of labs in India are still run by unqualified professionals with minimal emphasis on quality checks. With the advent of various accrediting bodies like NABL, NABH, CAP etc. we should see increased compliance and professionalism by all stakeholders. Quality and lab operation managers are two new offshoot profiles in this area. No accredited lab, whether hospital based or stand alone can function without these areas of expertise.

Another important development that is slowly revolutionizing the industry is emphasis on automation. This coupled with lean management, that is, judicious use of resources has enabled labs to be sharper and more professional in their approach. Today's pathologist or lab head is no longer just a technical person but an operations manager, an administrator, and a visionary to boot.

At National Heart Institute (NHI), we are poised to take off toward newer horizons not only in cardiology but other areas like oncology. The institute under the guidance of Dr S. Padmawati has had a reputation of being a premier institute in cardiology. The role of a 247 lab itself throws up new challenges every day. We are in the process of expanding our test menu and are also introducing component isolation in our blood bank. The lab is looking forward to full automation and faster turnaround times in the near future.

Currently, we at NHI have taken a conscious decision to start newer tests in the field of pediatric hematology/biochemistry and are involving key players like Siemens, Sysmex, and Abbott who can provide us instrumentation of high throughput and reasonable CPT. As we continue to grow, we are introducing tests like allergy panels and oncology markers to cater to increasing demands of the physicians for in-house testing of these niche tests.

These are exciting times in healthcare and more so in the field of diagnostics. The emphasis on evidence-based medicine, mandates that the role of a laboratory is at the forefront and not dumped in the basement as was the case till recent years. I think the best is yet to come and as doctors and pathologists we are ready to embrace the future of diagnostics.

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