Dr Th Dhabali Singh MD
The medical diagnostics as a discipline in India, especially the laboratory diagnostics, is today at an interesting juncture, having completely transformed from the laidback and subsidiary role it used to play towards the beginning to a more customer-centric activity today. Medical diagnostics now boasts of having a complete identity of its own, independent in many ways from the more all-encompassing term of “healthcare industry”. An integral part of the healthcare sector, laboratory diagnostics in India today is a huge fieldin itself and the scenario is upbeat. The diagnostics sector has been witnessing tremendous progress in the past three decades or so. Major technological innovations and higher efficiency systems have taken the sector to new heights. Advanced cutting-edge technologies are being used to understand disease prognosis, thereby strengthening the sophistication level of the participants in the sector.
Digitisation and Leveraging Online Services:
One distinct innovation in this sector in the past few years is the leveraging of online activities for a customer-centric service. Many new ways are being explored for better options to engage the patients and render service to themviathe online platform. Booking for laboratory services from home, home collection of samples through franchisees, improved turnaround times, digitisation and archiving of records, online payment, SMS notification of report completion, internet download or auto-emailing of reports are some new trends in the medical diagnostics domain.
The Emerging Popularity of Preventive Healthcare:
In the past, medical labs were generally seen as an area of healthcare for detecting and diagnosing health conditions when symptoms necessitated. This is changing today and because of modern lifestyle, increased awareness and desire for monitoring health, people no longer wait for the symptoms to show up. People are now ready to undergo regular health check-ups to detect early signs of disease and make lifestyle adjustments to prevent undesirable health conditions.
Convenience of Making Services Online:
With more people accessing the internet now than ever before, it is only pertinent that the medical diagnostics sector innovates itself to leverage this major technological change for a better rendering of services. Gone are the days when people had to stand in queues to take appointment at the laboratory to undergo testing. Today more and more laboratories are extending their services to the online platform for better reach and wider coverage. One could easily schedule an appointment via an e-mail or by logging in a mobile app for a phlebotomist’s visit directly from the lab or from a nearby franchisee or a collection centre. Here the samples are drawn at the comforts of their home with reports delivered directly or through e-mail to the patients. This has saved people from taking the time out to visit a laboratory or taking leave from their work. This is a welcome development for people who require regular laboratory tests because of their underlying health conditions.
Better Regulation of Medical Diagnostics Sector:
In India, a major portion of the diagnostic sector is dominated by standalone laboratories. With increasing awareness levels, people now demand quality reports as they directly impact their health. The laboratories are under pressure to get themselves certified or accredited to gain the trust of the doctors and the patients. This is a good development since there is an enhanced quality of healthcare at all levels. Moreover, people now choose laboratories that have a variety of services in the same establishment as they no longer want to visit different centres for different tests.
Digital Health Records:
The concept of electronic or digital records of patient data is relatively new in India, and this technology is now a trend in today’s scenario. Electronic archiving of records ensure that all data are documented systematically for easier retrieval from time to time as needed, and in some instances, accessed anywhere and anytime. This empowers a healthcare provider all updated medical history of a patient to better treatment or diagnosis. With the ability to access reports anytime through mobile apps, the patients need not carry with them paper reports every time they visit a doctor. This saves them time and from having repetitive tests. Everything is paperless and from the service provider’s perspective, it saves them from using paper and hence, more economical.
Customer-Centric Approach In Service:
The medical diagnostics laboratory is primarily dependent on hospital and doctor referrals. However, in the recent times, the diagnostic labs have been seriously making their own efforts at marketing their services through innovative health packages and screenings. These packages are aimed at making available preventive health check-ups to the general public and through them, raise the awareness levels of general health. Many innovative packages are available that include annual health check-ups, wellness packages for women, antenatal screening, senior citizens packages, etc. to attract new customers. Mobile apps are increasingly being too used by labs for providing better services to the patients and people in general.
Up until now, the people were under the impression that the relationship between patients and healthcare organization is one of pure medicine-based affairs. However, as the healthcare discipline advances and patients demand better quality care, it is increasingly becoming apparent that customer service is just as important in healthcare as in any other area because of the magnitude and type of the service being offered.The medical diagnostics field is changing, and customer experience is right at the center today. The change means it is becoming more competitive, and customer experience in many cases is the deciding factor for where patients go to get care. The medical diagnostics service providers are now shifting their focus to provide an enhanced patient experience at all levels.
(The writer is Senior Consultant Pathologist & Managing Director, BABINA Diagnostics, Imphal)
Dr Th Dhabali Singh MD