What you need to know:
- Any attempt to treat a disease without accurate and high-quality diagnostic tests and services is akin to punching in the dark.
- Even if a right condition is identified with diagnostic tests that are low in sensitivity, a patient could be subject of inefficient treatment.
There’s no question that diagnosis of diseases is one of the most vital services in healthcare provision. Without accurate and high-quality diagnosis, a disease cannot be identified, treatment cannot be started and, importantly, nor can progress of a disease be monitored.
Therefore, any attempt to treat a disease without accurate and high-quality diagnostic tests and services is akin to punching in the dark. This results in patients being treated for inappropriate ailments, creating more harm in the process. Even if a right condition is identified with diagnostic tests that are low in sensitivity, a patient could be subject of inefficient treatment.
Clearly, the presence or lack thereof proper diagnostic tests and services is a significant determinant of the state of healthcare system.
The latest Lancet report indicates that 47 per cent of the global population has poor or no access to diagnostic tests and services required for detecting diseases, both communicable and non-communicable.
That nearly half of the global population cannot access quality means of diagnosing diseases is disastrous. As expected, lower- and middle-income countries (LMIC), suffer the greatest brunt with only 19 per cent being able to access diagnostic services relating to primary care.
Rapid testing methods
The critical role of high-quality diagnostics cannot be overstated and has become even more appreciated during these times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rapid testing methods have been employed to determine those infected with the virus, thus need to be isolated for recovery or treatment, if need be, while containing the spread of the disease.
The Lancet report should, therefore, give policymakers in LMICs sleepless nights and spur them into action aimed at bridging the gaps and expanding access to diagnostics.
More often than not, the limited or lack of access to these vital services is attributed to two possible factors. First, simple nonexistence of diagnostics and its attendant services in hospitals and, secondly, even when available, the tests and services may not be affordable to patients in LMICs.
Therefore, there’s need for mobilization of funds and mounting of both national and international linkages to ensure equitable accessibility and affordability of high-quality diagnostic services. In addition, advances in modern technology have also impacted the field of medicine, resulting in the development of, among others, state-of-the-art diagnostic tools.
This calls for the necessity to expose clinical workers to training programs designed to equip them with skills required to handle modern diagnostics. As nations of the world strive to achieve universal health coverage (UHC), provision of high-quality diagnostic services should be at the centre stage.
Dr Kerima (PhD) is a biochemist. [email protected] @KerimaZablon