Healthcare is a very important segment of human lives. It has also become one of the largest industries in India in terms of revenues. Even from the career and job perspectives, the healthcare domain is one of the most significant and lucrative sectors to work in. There are primarily three major segments in healthcare and medicine – preventive medicine, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Preventive medicine or care involves routine check-ups, immunization or screening when an individual is symptom free and healthy (at least by clinical definition). Preventive care includes diabetes screening (blood glucose test), lipid profiling (cholesterol check), cancer screening, vaccinations etc. Preventive care gives you and your doctor a snapshot of your current health, and helps to prevent against future illness.
Therapeutic interventions (or therapeutics) refer to the treatment of disease or disorders by medicinal drugs and/or methods (say surgery). Diagnostics or diagnostic care is what an individual undergoes when s/he has got symptom or risk factors and the doctor/physician wants to diagnose them.
Diagnostics involve tests/procedures ordered by a physician and office visits needed to help diagnose or monitor a clinical condition or disease. Diagnostic care is basically a follow up of an issue from an irregular test result, an existing illness, injury or health problem already being treated by your doctor like diabetes, COPD, allergies, and more.
Among all these three segments, diagnostics is usually the first step to disease and healthcare management. Sometimes, it overlaps with preventive care as well.Suppose someone ha got a family history of colorectal-cancer. If that person undergoes routine test to check for early signs of cancer in accordance with age-based guidelines or family history, that is a preventive care. If that person develops a polyp (small clump of cells due to abnormal growth – usually visible to the naked eye as an abnormal swollen area), the doctor will advise the person to undergo few tests. These tests are diagnostic tests. Know more about the differences between preventive care and diagnostic care.
The field of diagnostics can be classified in two major categories – in vivo diagnostics and in vitro diagnostics.
The in vivo segment (can also be termed as the Radiology segment) includes the medical imaging procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound scanning, sonography, X-Ray, mammography, positron emission topography (PET), colonoscopy, Computer Axial Tomography (CT scan) etc. The in vivo tests (can also be termed as the Pathology segment) are performed directly on a human body (patient).
The in vitro diagnostic tests involve processing and investigation of biological samples, collected directly from the patient, such as blood, urine, saliva, tissues, faces etc. The human samples are analysed in a laboratory setting to detect and quantify the presence of a specific biological marker (biomarker). A biomarker could be a circulating protein, pathogen, electrolyte and even genetic mutation.
For further reading: List of Top 10 Diagnostic Tests
The in vitro market is the larger of the two diagnostics market segments. As per the market research report ofKen Research, pathology testing is the first line of diagnosis for the majority of diseases in India.
According to Business Standard and few other sources, almost 70% of the diagnostics market is being dominated by the pathology (in vitro) segment.
Within the in vitro (pathology) segment, the measurement of the biomarker is usually achieved by one of the two types of commercial products – a standardized laboratory developed test (LDT) or anin vitro diagnostic test, device or kit (IVD).
The biotech-healthcare industry in India is doing very well recently, and currently on an exponential growth trajectory. At present, the Indian biotechnology industryis valued about $11.6 billion currently and expected to touch the $ 100 billion mark by 2025 as per the forecast of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE).
The Indian biotechnology sector can be classified into 5 major segments – bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-agriculture, bio-industry and bio-informatics. The biopharma segment deals in biopharmaceuticals, therapeutics and diagnostics. The healthcare industry is currently pegged at USD 100 billion (IBEF), and is likely to grow at a CAGR of 23% to US$ 280 billion by 2020. EvenRNCOSreported similar figures – INR 860 Billion in revenues by 2020.
With time, India has also become one of the leading destinations for medical tourism and high-end diagnostic services in South-East Asia, with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities. As per the article on Business Standard, the universal health plan that the government aims to offer, is expected to cost an estimated INR 1.6 trillion (USD 23.72 billion) over the next four years. By therapeutic segment, the major share is held by biochemistry (38%), followed by immunology (23%), haematology (15.8%), critical care, urine routine, others, microbiology and coagulation. Though the pathology segment dominates the Indian market, the field of diagnostic radiology segment is rapidly expanding.
There have been some pitfalls as there are many unorganized players in this market, especially in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. These unorganised, standalone players, which form a substantial part of this fragmented market, and have been successful in catering to the diagnostic needs of tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where almost every area has local and generic diagnostic laboratory, particularly dealing in pathology services.
But, if you look at the brighter side, there are enough career and job opportunities. If you are ambitious enough, there is ample opportunity set up you own diagnostics venture and taste commercial success.
As the world is on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution, we are witnessing radical impact on jobs and employment due to the technological disruption (automation, machine learning, and robotics).
According to the World Economic Forum, the world will lose 5 million jobs by 2020. India has already started facing the heat as the job-cuts and layoffs took the centre stage in the Indian job market in 2017 (read this).
However, it must be remembered that the robots and automation are primarily taking away the boring and mundane human jobs. Diagnostics jobs are highly skilled ones, and also require specialist knowledge along with the handling of sophisticated instruments. It’s not that diagnostics jobs do not involve any repetitive tasks. But, a complete replacement of the human workforce by robots is not going to happen any soon.
As per the recent study by the Deakin University, diagnostics and advanced scientific jobs will see a negative impact of automation on employment. In fact, these areas are likely to experience high job growth. Additionally, if coupled with technology, diagnostics domain (both radiology and pathology) can create more job opportunities.
As of now, simple blood tests and genetic screenings are being automated. Sooner or later, the complicated tests will also get automated. I guess we are looking at a timeline of 15 years from now.
Robots and automation will not take away the diagnostics jobs from humans too soon; but be careful and stay updated with the technological advancements.
Diagnostics is a multi-billion dollar industry and one of those domains where significant cost reduction is possible while improving efficiency and accuracy by using robots and automation. For example, at Thyrocare (Mumbai), 100,000 diagnostic tests are performed every evening, and the reports get delivered within 24 hours of sample collected from the patient. So, as you can imagine, the field does need automation and technological disruption. Hence, if you are one of those folks who like to disrupt the market using technology, you might want to look at the diagnostics sector.
You might also like to read: The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse
Medical Radiologists (MBBS graduates with PG specialization) and Senior Pathologists (with foreign degree in biomedical sciences – MS/PhD) can earn INR 130,000 to 190,000 per month with 4 – 6 years of experience under their belts.
Sources: PayScale, NaukriHub&Glassdoor
If you need professional guidance with higher education, career and job opportunities in the diagnostics space, feel free to post your query in the comment section below.