A clinical laboratory service is an essential part of a better healthcare quality. In fact, most of the medical decisions are based on laboratory tests – ranging from a simple test, such as urine and blood test, to a more complicated analysis test, such as fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and molecular expression testing.

Globally, the industry market is estimated at USD186.1 billion in 2016, and previously at USD168.9 billion in 2015. The industry is also expected to grow at 7.3% of compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during 2016 to 2024.

In the Asian region, despite the lack of report on the market, the industry is expected to have a huge prospect owing to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases and geriatric population, as compared to other regions.

In spite of the positive look on the industry market globally, starting up a clinical laboratory itself does come with many challenges.

It’s all about the money: Funding

The industry processes about hundreds to thousands of samples at a time; and must ensure each sample is accurately analysed. This process requires highly professional personnel and a cutting-edge technology and machinery. Consequently, building up a clinical laboratory will consume a significant amount of capital fund.

In addition, a clinical laboratory will need to be licensed in it particular specialty, meet all safety and related bio hazard guidelines and of course be accredited. These processes are highly important as it not only ensures the accuracy and reliability of the result – but, it also gives confidence to future investors.

The cost may vary depending on the scale of the business, as the more complex organisation will have a higher cost. For example, the full cost of hospital survey by Joint Commission International (JCI) in 2010 was USD46,000.

Obviously, a small scale organisation such as a private clinical laboratory may consume less than that. However, the cost is still significant for a start-up entrepreneur. Bear in mind, the process such as accreditation is not a one-time achievement – rather, a continuous commitment in term of time and finance.

Culture and need

The culture and the need of that particular country or region should be taken into consideration. The degree of the public awareness about the new medical technology would play a huge impact on the industry. For example, a pathology industry in Malaysia generated RM1 billion revenue, annually. However, Australia generated RM12 billion annually although its population is much smaller compared to Malaysia.

The scenario does reflect the potential growth of this industry in Malaysia. Nonetheless, a strategic planning, a right combination of appeal and a substantial amount of fund are required – in order to build a culture in the community and increase the level of awareness among the public.

Hospital-based laboratories mostly dominate the clinical laboratory industry. Hence, clinic-based laboratories and stand-alone laboratories need to come up with a strategy to attract the public.

Personal customisation on top of a highquality and fast result may able to interest the public. Also, coupled with the modern technology or procedure, which is above the standard will bring something new to the progress of the country’s health care.

In Malaysia, a startup, Oncode Scientific Sdn Bhd provides precision medicine to cancer patients, such as genetic profiling. Although the theory itself is not entirely new, its application into the healthcare system is still comparatively slow.

A clinical laboratory industry is a promising market as many people have been self-conscious about their health. However, entrepreneurs or health professionals looking to invest or be directly involved in this market should have a clear vision for this industry. How they position themselves into the healthcare system and how much can people benefit from them will determine the ups and downs of this industry. MIMS

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