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1st April 2022

Harnessing digitalisation in point of care to deliver greater value

Ian Parfrement, head of point of care customer area at Roche Diagnostics, outlines the value digitally enabled solutions can bring to healthcare systems, including its cobas pulse system. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has broadened the public’s understanding of point of care diagnostics and reinforced their critical importance to healthcare. However, beyond the horizon of the pandemic lies a future with great potential for point of care diagnostics – one in which digitally-enabled solutions deliver even more value to healthcare systems. Those of us working in the point of care space are excited to deliver on this potential.

Moving ‘beyond the test’ result

For a generation, point of care diagnostics have been important tools for healthcare professionals to obtain a diagnostic number from which a clinical decision could be made, say a patient’s blood glucose level or a C-reactive protein result. But as we have come to appreciate, while incredibly important, an accurate number can only accomplish so much on its own.

As we look at healthcare in 2022 and beyond, raw diagnostic numbers will not be enough if we want to deliver greater value to stretched healthcare systems or enable more innovative models of care. Numbers leave healthcare providers with the burden of quickly determining ‘what to do with the patient next.’ Imagine being a nurse or doctor in a hospital, seeing countless patients with all manner of health conditions. Each day, you capture endless numbers to make the best decisions about each patient’s individual care plan while under tremendous pressure. It is a lot to ask.

But what if instead you had practical insights and care recommendations in the palm of your hand? What if you could tell in an instant, ‘This is definitely not a heart attack or stroke. This patient should be dosed with this much insulin?’ These insights are more than just words on the screen. They can literally separate life from death.

Digitalising point of care diagnostics

When we think about the future of point of care diagnostics here at Roche, this is what we envision: solutions that are designed with the needs of patients and healthcare professionals first in mind, combined with the high quality and performance they have come to trust. We envision solutions that reduce the very real pain points experienced by healthcare professionals in their working lives and that open up whole new innovative models of care.

We believe one of the keys to this is harnessing the power of digitalisation.

Right now, new digital health solutions are shifting the diagnostics paradigm. New digitally connected instruments are coming to market that can link to electronic medical records and other devices, providing a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s medical history and helping providers spend less time speculating on what might be wrong with a patient. As a result, they can make more confident care decisions and reduce unnecessary and costly testing. Such innovations are especially useful in resource-constrained settings where laboratory infrastructure is limited and in emergencies where every second counts.

Taken together, these enhanced capabilities can lead to faster and more accurate clinical decisions, more effective patient management and better use of valuable healthcare resources.

The cobas pulse system: a catalyst for the future of care

Here you might ask how Roche Diagnostics plans to offer greater value to healthcare by playing in this new digital space? It starts with our latest point of care solution that we introduced in select European countries in January this year. The cobas pulse system is an industry-first, digitally enabled point of care solution that combines the form factor of a high-performance blood glucose meter with the simple usability and expanded digital capabilities similar to that of a smartphone.

When first developing this solution years back, our vision was to transition from the handheld blood glucose meter that had become the status quo to an enhanced point of care platform for digital health solutions. We therefore combined a highly accurate blood glucose meter with the latest module of Roche’s cobas infinity edge suite of diagnostic software solutions, called smart.

By marrying innovations in hardware and software, the cobas pulse system will serve as a digital platform that enables developers of digital health applications to access healthcare professionals as customers for the first time – creating a new business-to-business partnership model for the future of digital health. The benefits of such a model? It means that the cobas pulse system comes equipped with a range of Roche-selected third-party digital health applications that perform a range of clinically valuable functions for improved care delivery – from clinical decision support to the measurement of vital signs and biomarkers. Better yet, the platform confers near limitless opportunities to expand the functionality of the cobas pulse system down the line.

As the first customers begin to pilot the cobas pulse system, we are excited to document tangible examples of how it improves care for patients and the working lives of busy healthcare professionals. However, at the outset, we already know this well: leveraging digitalisation and translating single data points into more meaningful insights must happen if we want to deliver more value to healthcare. In some respects, we are just at the start of this exciting journey, but it is one we are thrilled to lead.