abbott i-STATAbout three years ago, the Defence Research and Development Organsiation (DRDO) sourced a couple of hand-held i-STAT devices to check the blood parameters of soldiers posted at the Siachen base. Such tests are required regularly at high altitudes.

From inaccessible terrains to rural areas, patient care often has to move beyond the hospital to the actual location or “point of care” at home or elsewhere. And that’s where healthcare multinational Abbott sees the relevance of its portable device i-STAT. The device can run 26 tests and provide results within 2 to 10 minutes.

Looking to increase i-STATs usage in India, the company has recast its strategy from operating through distributors to engage directly with doctors and institutions. And this scale up in field-force and investment in a supporting call-centre has taken place in India over the last eight months.

About a decade ago, Abbott’s Point of Care (PoC) business was focussed on the United States, but about a year ago a decision was made to prioritise the Indian market, Sharon Bracken, Abbott (PoC) President, told BusinessLine during a recent visit to India. The trigger was that PoC has achieved about 38 per cent market share in the US and needed to expand into other regions. The segment is a $550-million business for Abbott.

Besides, the i-STAT has been in India since the 1990s but had sold only about 2,000 units, she points out. The convenience of being portable aside, the device offers a battery of tests and quick results. This saves on overheads and lab infrastructure, besides the reduced turnaround time in getting the blood result allows doctors to plan treatment quickly, she explains.

The healthcare company is talking to State governments who could use the portable device in rural areas or other difficult to access regions where a conventional lab may not be available.

The device could cost a doctor or clinic about Rs. 6 lakh, with a smaller recurring cost on the cartridge.

For instance, pilot programmes are under way in some States and hospitals, as the product offers an effective option in emergency care, ICUs (intensive care units) and homecare services, a company official said, without giving details on the cost of the device.

An industry insider points out that the device could cost a doctor or clinic about Rs. 6 lakh, with a smaller recurring cost on the cartridge. And though there are products competing in the segment, they may not have a similar array of tests, says a company official.

Globally, the In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) market involving tests done in laboratory or other professional settings is pegged at $46 billion, while point of care (home or at location) is pegged at $6 billion.

In India, the IVD market is pegged at $1 billion (2015), and is projected as the fastest growing international IVD market, estimated to touch $1.9 billion by 2020.

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