Bringing down the barriers to healthcare access

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  • Posted on 07.06.2022

Bringing down the barriers to healthcare access

Claire Wallace

President, Microbiology Specialty Diagnostic Group Thermo Fisher Scientific

COVID-19 has changed healthcare industry forever. The unparalleled demands placed on healthcare systems have disrupted old ways and exposed cracks but also opened our eyes to new possibilities. I was so inspired to see people pulling together, refusing to give up, and our industry showing a resilience to bring innovations to the market that positively impact patients’ lives.

New vaccines. New diagnostic tools. New research efforts. A rethinking of healthcare provision and preparedness. Not to mention a whole new level of consumer awareness.

Despite a largely remote workforce, the medtech industry rolled up its sleeve and used its scale to make a difference. I’m also deeply impressed by the superhuman response from nurses and doctors who deserve our utmost respect. Meanwhile, patients have become better informed and more empowered to take charge of their own health. Today, it seems, the “democratization” of healthcare is gaining momentum, fueled by new digital technologies and medical innovations.

In a broader sense, healthcare access still faces many challenges: geographic issues, vaccine and testing availability, staffing shortages, costs and more. Nevertheless, my colleagues and I see strong potential to collaborate with our customers in making healthcare more accessible. Specifically, we see three key areas where we are enabling our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer:

Testing for many different common health conditions from allergies to disease can be made more accessible to patients, making it easier and faster to diagnose and treat common ailments. This is where companies like my own can collaborate to invest in R&D for faster, easier to access testing and information – much of which can be done from home or in local community settings (like a pharmacy, community care facility, nursing home, etc). Increasing testing accessibility can empower patients to take more control over their health which, in a time when many of our health care systems around the world are stretched extremely thin, can be a game changer in supporting better disease prevention and care management.

Access to fast, accurate and inexpensive molecular diagnostic testing is another promising area. Today, a whole new generation of molecular tests is enabling patients, healthcare providers and communities to better monitor and contain fast-moving infectious diseases. A good example is the new PCR COVID-19 point-of-care tests that provide accurate results in 30 minutes or less. This technology will drive a rapid transformation in the use of point-of-care diagnostics for a whole range of ailments- most notably for detecting infectious diseases – providing patients with information critical to their health.

Finally, imagine a world where anyone can order a simple genetic test kit to help predict disease risk and understand drug response. Novel ways to detect everything from breast cancer to obesity. All they need to do is provide a blood or saliva sample. There is mounting evidence that predictive genomics (PG) can provide individuals and health systems with key information on at risk patients for a wide range of diseases. This information can then be used to improve patient outcomes and reduce the strain on our healthcare system. For more information on this promising technology read the recent blog post by my colleague, Francesco Florindi here.  Information for individuals, supported by their health care experts, can allow all of us to make better decisions to stay healthy and live longer lives.

These are just three areas where technology and innovation are bringing down the barriers to patient access. Whether accelerating life sciences research, solving complex analytical challenges, improving patient health through diagnostics or developing life-changing therapies, we can all work together to make it happen.

Looking to the future, I think we’ll see a rapid increase in healthcare diagnostics and testing systems that truly empower patients, supported by industry every step of the way.

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