Director, Public Affairs
Roche Diagnostics – Canada
Ph.D. Director, Medical Affairs
Roche Diagnostics – Canada
This past year, the way we think and talk about diagnostic testing has, to put it lightly, evolved. Never before have so many people been so invested in what tests are available, how reliable they are, how fast they are, and how they work. The things that we, meaning both the general public and the healthcare industry, have learned along the way are indisputably going to have a lasting effect on the way we approach healthcare and diagnostics long after this pandemic is behind us.
“Diagnostics is the backbone of the healthcare system, and we are entering the golden era of diagnostics right now in terms of both technology and public knowledge,” says François Drolet, Director of Public Affairs at Roche Diagnostics Canada. “Before COVID-19, the average Canadian never really thought about diagnostics, now everyone can tell you what a PCR test is.”
Building healthier communities
This increased awareness has provided a rare opportunity to rethink the way we administer and communicate the role of testing in the healthcare journey. “People need to be aware of what these tests can and can’t do,” says Michele D’Elia, Director of Medical Affairs at Roche. “A test is only good if prescribed for the right application. Fortunately, people are very receptive to that information right now, and we have a great opportunity to educate.”
The good news is there is a lot of new learning to share. Roche was at the forefront of investment in COVID-19 diagnostics, leading the way with PCR testing, rapid testing, antibody testing, and the automated labs that made it possible to do all of this at the scale that it was needed. They have recognized this pandemic as a profound motivator to take all these new technologies and piece them together into an effective community-based solution.
“The pieces of the connected care puzzle were already there, but during COVID-19 they finally began to be assembled because of the immediate need,” says D’Elia. “Tomorrow, I think it is going to be very obvious to healthcare providers and patients that we can use these same tools to manage other diseases in a different and more effective way. We have before us a new way of looking at the patient journey and assessing value in the healthcare system. Care and testing in the community is going to enable a connected care pathway for many patients.”
Today’s health care investments will keep paying dividends tomorrow
This is an important theme that keeps coming up. We have made significant investments in our healthcare infrastructure over the past year, and it is essential that we ensure that the benefit of these investments stay with us once the crisis has passed. “One thing that we have seen change is that public investment in diagnostics has progressed beyond short term thinking, with a new mindset for the longer horizon,” says Drolet. “The tools that we are funding and building now are going to keep helping us long after COVID-19, and that’s going to be very important in catching up on the diagnostic backlog that has built up during the pandemic. I hope and expect to see the investments that have been made over the last year fully leveraged in areas like oncology and women’s health in the near future.”
As we move into that future, we have the advantage of an industry that has risen to the occasion, learned a lot of valuable lessons and became highly visible. “The needs of this time have made the diagnostic industry more agile,” says D’Elia. “Previously, we had been making the tools as we were building the house. Now, our toolbox is filling up and we are recognizing that, while a hammer is super useful, at some point you need a screwdriver or a wrench. We have got so many tools now, and we are deploying them in the right use cases so that we can have a more comprehensive and better informed approach to testing.”
Diagnostics is the backbone of the health care system, and we’re entering the golden era of diagnostics right now in terms of both technology and public knowledge.
Whether we are talking about personalized preventative care for cervical cancer through molecular HPV testing or community-based diagnostics and monitoring for endemic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, the potential for a revolution in healthcare thinking is ubiquitous. Through better diagnostics, we can seize this moment to build a future where every Canadian has access to the right care, at the right time, and in the right place.