Early diagnostics healthcare market to see demand lift off

30 June 2020 Consultancy.eu

The market for early diagnostics is set to lift off in the coming years, according to a new report by Vintura and EIT Health. 

The booming demand goes hand in hand with three main developments: macro-health trends sweeping though the industry, and pressure from both patients and governments to improve the prevention of diseases. 

As it stands, around 75% of clinical decisions are based on medical diagnostic tests, which have the goal of identifying a disease or confirming its presence. There are dozens of tests around, ranging from radiology (techniques used to create visual representations of the body for clinical analysis and treatment purposes) and in vitro (outside the body e.g. blood, biopsies) to in vivo tests (inside the body). 

With the advent of new technologies come new opportunities, and the world of diagnostics is a key example of this, say experts from healthcare consulting firm Vintura and EIT Health in a vision paper they jointly released. Leveraging advancing technologies to detect diseases at an earlier time than is common practice today, early diagnostics can unlock numerous benefits.

Early diagnostics healthcare market to see demand lift off

Healthcare

Obviously, more timely treatment through better upfront detection can go a long way in improving patient healthcare while lowering costs. Having provided, filtered and analysed large amounts of information, digital tools able to provide physicians with the ability to improve and speed up their diagnostic capabilities. This allows identification of a patient’s health problems more quickly and leads to an earlier diagnosis. 

These benefits then cascade down through the health chain. For example, the prescription of the right treatment for a patient helps avoid unnecessary intervention, lowers pressure on doctors, and ultimately keep some people out of hospital, which in turn improves hospitalisation success rates for patients facing higher need for care. 

Meanwhile, for a certain group of patients that need hospital care anyhow, initiating treatments earlier can enable minimally invasive procedures that reduce operating-room time, length of stay and rehabilitation.

Personal health

The second key benefit of early diagnostics lies in its ability to empower people to pursue a stronger focus on healthy living. The introduction of new technologies enables people to continuously monitor indicators and to collect valuable insights about their health.

Digital biomarkers, for example, provides these insights through digital tools that collect and / or track data on among others exercising, sleep routines, and blood pressure. This allows individuals to monitor their own health and proactively focus on a healthier way of living, rather than reactively responding to diseases once they occur. 

Three types of early diagnostics

The application of early diagnostics can according to Vintura and EIT Health be divided into three types of analyses:

Increased data (quantity)
Within increased data, a previously known type of technique is used to either measure a new indicator or a larger amount of indicators. This could lead to more accurate outcomes and lower error margins. Examples are digital biomarkers – Apple Watch’s fall detection and additional features added to existing fitness trackers and digital health systems such as Samsung Health. 

Improved analysis (quality)
This type focuses on the application of algorithms and artificial intelligence. Algorithms are used to improve, speed up and standardise the decisions made. They are often used in the process of diagnostic testing and have the potential to contribute to an earlier diagnosis. Aside from in-depth diagnostic testing, many mobile health solutions adopt algorithms to look for patterns and predict future outcomes. 

Artificial intelligence tools have the ability to reduce human errors and can be used for different applications, such as informing about diagnosis and assisting in treatments. An important way in which artificial intelligence is used is as visual pattern recognition software, where it is estimated to be 5% to 10% more accurate than the average physician.

A new world (both quantity and quality)
Here, both the way of testing and what is being measured are considered new. These types of analyses usually bring completely new insights to healthcare and are often focussed on prevention by monitoring health functions of the human body or foreseeing potential diseases in the future by understanding individual genes.

Testing DNA has become one of the most obvious examples of newly developed analysis, and is rapidly growing in popularity. 

Concluding, the authors stated, “There is a strong push on a global level to identify diseases and detect them at earlier rates to optimise the potential for healthy living. For the full potential of early diagnostics to unfold, it is important to strike a balance in cost effectiveness and to prevent potential overuse or misuse of diagnostics testing.”