Diagnostics key to reviving ailing healthcare systems

Early diagnosis underpins preventative healthcare and can help improve patient outcomes

For staff working on the frontlines of healthcare, it may feel that the very systems they are relying on to protect patient’s health and wellbeing are themselves in need of resuscitation. The pandemic and economic downturn have left governments and healthcare providers scrambling to manage their budgets, while staffing levels and other vital resources are perilously low.

As policymakers, hospital managers, and healthcare practitioners struggle to bring down waiting times that soared due to COVID-19 and improve access to important services, increasing the dose of diagnostics could well be just what the doctor ordered. 

Often the unsung hero of the healthcare industry, diagnostics, proved their worth many times over during the pandemic. Far from having had their moment in the spotlight, these tools and solutions could play a crucial role in the recovery of healthcare systems and ensuring they are ready for future challenges.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our world and cost millions of lives, however, one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is the recognition of the value of diagnostics. Prior to the pandemic, people never really thought about diagnostics until they experienced the difference fast and accurate testing could make. Early diagnosis is the foundation of preventative healthcare and can help improve patient outcomes as well as play an essential role in guiding treatment decisions and monitoring therapy.” Ann Costello, Head of Roche Diagnostics Solutions, says. 

Driving Crucial Efficiencies in the Lab

Roche Diagnostics is combining technological and scientific advances with digital tools, such as the recently introduced navify® Algorithm Suite, to provide laboratories with comprehensive solutions that they can quickly and consistently deploy to better utilize data, while reducing operational costs.

Roche is also helping to improve efficiencies within laboratories by integrating Molecular testing and Point of Care testing into services – going beyond the more standard combination of traditional disciplines like chemistry and immunoassays.

“I believe customers will be impressed to see how we’ve been able to expand beyond the traditional area of consolidating the serum work area – of chemistry and immunochemistry – to incorporate and integrate other disciplines to transform lab operations, ” Ann says ahead of the EuroMedLab Congress in May. 

Roche has already introduced automation solutions, such as connection modules, as well as digital solutions, that are designed to streamline activities within high-throughput laboratories. This functionality is also giving laboratories full and transparent control over their operational processes regardless of whether they are working at a single site or across multiple locations. Our Healthcare Consulting services are aiding with the implementation of these solutions.

“And it doesn’t stop there. We’re also making important advances in vertical automation, which is a smart way of bringing automation to those laboratories that have space constraints,” Ann says. 

A key area of focus for Roche is ensuring that the information generated by laboratories and point of care operations are connected to key systems such as the Laboratory Information System or Electronic Medical Records.

“If you look at healthcare information today, too often connectivity is fragmented and dependent on legacy systems. This is making interoperability very challenging for organizations. A key part of our digital strategy is to make it easier to connect data so that you get a readout that is meaningful and helps ensure better patient care coordination” Ann says.


Advancing Clinical Practice

Digital tools are also starting to help clinicians to more quickly diagnose and treat patients in a number of areas, including neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be very long and challenging, especially during the earlier stages of the disease. Digital tools that can assess people’s cognitive capabilities together with accurate diagnostic tests would be a game changer,” Ann says. 

“Early and accurate diagnosis is so important for patients and their physicians as it affords them an opportunity to take steps to preserve cognitive function, make better care plans, and get involved in clinical research that may lead to new treatments,” Ann adds.

Roche is also pursuing other testing approaches for Alzheimer’s disease in a bid to make diagnostic tests more accessible. It recently received FDA approval for its Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) assays, and it is developing minimally invasive testing solutions that can detect Alzheimer’s biomarkers from a blood sample. This could help to alleviate some of the current diagnosis barriers, such as the ability to schedule a cognitive assessment with a physician.1,2 

Earlier interventions could also result in a reduction of costs in other parts of healthcare systems – a benefit that applies to all disease areas, industry experts have said.

Delivering Value for Patients, Healthcare Systems, and Society

Data has shown that timely testing for medical conditions, such as cancer and heart failure, can reduce the chance of people becoming ill and can help ensure people receive treatment and management support more swiftly.3,4 For healthcare systems, this can translate into reduced treatment costs and lower indirect costs, and for societies, it can mean more people in work, and more people leading full and active lives.5 One study in the US has put savings from early cancer diagnoses at $26 billion in terms of yearly treatment costs.

“Cervical cancer is a great example of how early diagnosis can make a huge difference. Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV).7 Effective screening for HPV, and treating precancerous lesions can prevent most cervical cancer cases – no woman should die from cervical cancer. But we can only save women if they have access to accurate tests before the cancer has advanced,” Ann says.

Using biomarkers or companion diagnostics to match a patient to a specific drug or therapy in cancer is another example of how diagnostic tools are delivering value for healthcare systems. 

Highly targeted medicines can be used to treat patients whose cancers have specific genetic mutations or are expressing too much of a certain protein. It’s a development that is improving patient outcomes and resulting in more efficient care.8


Communities Coming Together

As members of the diagnostic community gather at the EuroMedLab Congress, representatives of the global health community will be meeting in Geneva at the World Health Assembly (WHA) to vote on a World Health Organization resolution that is aimed at strengthening the world’s diagnostics capacity.9

It’s clear that diagnostics services are vital for ensuring the prevention, management, monitoring, and treatment of communicable, noncommunicable, neglected tropical, and rare diseases as well as injuries and disabilities. 

It's equally clear that policymakers and other decision-makers can play an even more decisive role in improving the health of their citizens, their societies, and their healthcare systems by investing in and embracing the diagnostic capabilities that are fundamental to shaping how healthcare is delivered today and tomorrow.

“For patients, being able to access accurate reliable diagnostic tests is invaluable. The burden of not knowing what is making you ill can, in some cases, be as great as the burden of the illness itself. By establishing modern diagnostic centers around the world, we will be able to take a huge leap forward in addressing both of these burdens. I’m looking forward to working with other members of the healthcare community at the WHA to make this happen,” Ann says. 

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  1. Roche. (2022). [Accessed 28 April 2023] Press Release available from
  2. Whyte and Sause. (2022). [Accessed 28 April 2023] Podcast available from 
  3. WHO. [Accessed 5 May 2023] Article available from
  4. Taylor, C. et al. (2021). BJGP open, 5(3). [Accessed 5 May 2023] Article available from
  5. Roche. (2022). [Accessed 28 April 2023] Article available 
  6. Kakushadze, Raghubanshi, and Yu. (2017). Data 2. [Accessed 28 April 2023] Paper available from 
  7. WHO. [Accessed 2 May 2023] Article available from
  8. Roche. [Accessed 28 April 2023] Article available from
  9. WHO. (2023). [Accessed 28 April 2023] Report available