June 20, 2024

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The medical diagnostics landscape in 2024

Geoff Twist, managing director, Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland, analyses what to expect from this year in the medical diagnostics space.

As we step into 2024, and I approach three decades working in diagnostics, I can genuinely say that the landscape has never been as exciting as it is right now. Advancements in technology and the precision, speed, and accessibility of tests and solutions are poised to revolutionise the way we detect, monitor, and treat medical conditions; and even for those of us who work in the industry, it’s hard to keep up with the pace of innovation.

Here are just five of the diagnostic innovations that I think could have the greatest impact on healthcare in the next 12 months.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

In 2024, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into diagnostic tools is set to reach new heights and in areas of healthcare, such as the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, AI has the potential to affect profound improvements in diagnostic efficiency and patient outcomes. These technologies have the capability to rapidly and accurately analyse vast amounts of medical data, potentially uncovering hidden insights, that can lead to faster and more precise diagnoses. We are already working with NHS partners to support the use of machine learning algorithms that accurately predict disease risk through the analysis of complex biomarker profiles. These powerful tools aid clinicians in the design of personalised treatment regimes, using targeted therapies, to help give patients the best possible outcome.

The diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

We have entered a new era in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease with global healthcare systems poised to leverage a range of breakthrough medical technologies. There is an increasing emphasis on early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, especially with disease modifying treatments nearly in reach, and the community eagerly awaits simple blood-based biomarkers to enable easier and more cost-effective disease management. And beyond pharmacological interventions, lifestyle modifications, cognitive training, and holistic care models are also gaining recognition for their potential in both delaying the onset of symptoms and managing and improving the quality of life for individuals with this cruel disease. The collaborative efforts of researchers, clinicians, and the integration of technology are paving the way for a more nuanced and effective approach to tackling the complexities of Alzheimer’s Disease and my hope is that this will really start to take shape in 2024.

Point-of-care testing

The demand for rapid and accessible diagnostic tests continues to drive the development of point-of-care testing devices. In 2024, I think we can expect a proliferation of handheld and portable diagnostic tools that deliver quick and reliable results at the patient’s bedside or in community locations beyond traditional healthcare settings. These devices can and should be instrumental in addressing major public health challenges such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, as well as enabling timely diagnosis of infectious diseases, monitoring chronic conditions, and facilitating rapid decision-making in emergency situations.

Devices for continuous monitoring

The rise of wearable technology is also extending its reach, with an increasing focus on continuous health monitoring. In 2024, I think we will see the continued innovation of wearable diagnostic devices which offer real-time data on various health parameters, such as heart rate, blood glucose levels, and even early signs of infectious diseases. The continuous stream of data they provide allows for proactive management of chronic conditions and timely interventions. By empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being they could also play a key role in the much-needed shift in focus from treatment to prevention and protecting specialist acute services for those who need them most.

The power of data and insight

Building on the theme of ‘knowledge is power’ I believe the revolutionary approach of giving patients access to and autonomy over their own information and data – through platforms like Patients Know Best – will continue to accelerate. By providing a secure and centralised space for medical records, test results, and treatment plans, Patients Know Best enables users to make informed decisions and actively engage in their care. This not only enhances transparency and communication but also promotes a more personalised experience. Patient involvement is far from a new concept in the NHS but Patients Know Best feels like a paradigm shift towards valuing and prioritising the knowledge and agency of the people who use healthcare services.