Ameera Shah: Why is the healthcare space not disruptive enough?

Publication: Business Standard
Posted on: April 25, 2017

Currently, is one more important industry everybody is fixated on – consumers want the best care and service providers want to maximise profits through innovation in technology and delivery. After lagging behind for almost five decades, this industry is energising and changing itself faster than any other vertical, becoming one of the largest industry globally. Every government, every economy is largely focused on improving their sector.


The industry is India specifically is amenable to disruptive innovation because the technologies, business models, and potential value networks capable of driving that innovation are already in place. The sector is ripe for all kinds of ground-breaking leadership and disruption but one of the biggest challenges perhaps is that healtcare is constantly on the move,  changing and evolving.


Yet, it has grown to become stodgier and extremely people dependent with the doctors acting as its gatekeepers. Research and global technology may dictate more effective and accurate ways of tracking and diagnosing health and well-being, but none of it can be implemented practically until the faternity of doctors are convinced to embrace the change.


While technology has greatly facilitated the rapid growth of the sector, especially the diagnostics space in terms of newer and more accurate tests, we are yet to see any disruption caused by this phenomenon. Old-fashioned medicine was largely based on the prognosis of costly specialists who had extensive training and lengthy experience, enabling them to recognise patterns and early symptoms of a disease and intuitively arrive at diagnoses. However, modern technologies have now made it possible to pinpoint the exact cause of a disease through imaging, molecular biology and other diagnostic approaches, thus replacing ‘intuitive medicine’ with ‘precision medicine’.


In the past, treating diseases was a more profitable business for pharmaceutical companies and providers than diagnosing them. In the future, that could very well change. Diagnostics and preventive care is already taking precedence over the curative approach. Introducing a new technology in the segment is not difficult, but it is challenging to convince the doctors to change their comfortable ways of working in order to implement the new technology smoothly.


Even in India, when a company comes up with a technological revolution, they have to first go from doctor to doctor and convince them that this way is better for their patients. For example, 20 years ago, we started educating doctor to move from cholesterol testing to lipid profile. It wasn’t an easy move to make, convincing hundreds and thousands of doctors why the the change would give them improved results. The struggle remains the same even today when we are trying to get them to move form lipid profiling to lipo protein testing.


Disruption is slow and the entry barrier is much harder to push back. I believe the disruption we have been waiting for will come, but its impact will be slow, almost unnoticable. In a way, this also gives existing players to be disruptive because in this sector customer and consumer are different.


We have even seen global examples of how companies have tried to disrupt and have actually resulted in losing the trust of the patient, doctor and all stakeholders involved. Therefore, disruptions in need to be planned, will be painfully slow and one step at a time. The bright side is that disruptions will result in clear development of systems in three areas; enhancing the experience of care, bettering the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of


On the business side too, there is a huge potential for laboratories to become center of information. can transform into information-driven business with bioinformatics that will enchance their transparency, visibility, control and accountability over business processes. Equipped with super advanced systems, pathology companies will become the key enablers of changes that will bring about a new age of delivery. Laboratory systems today and in the future will become the largest source of clinical data and this information will enable them to improve their role in delivery model and transform the pathology service of the future.