The Impact of COVID-19: A Case Study from Roche Diagnostics
The past ten weeks have been an incredible journey, which has simultaneously placed Diagnostics and the Medtech industry front and centre of the Government response to this unprecedented healthcare crisis and turned the way we work on its head. As a result, my role as Director of the Access and Innovation team at Roche Diagnostics has had to change dramatically too.
As the virus spread, and the scale of the challenge we were all facing came into focus, it was clear that IVDs would be a crucial element of our response to this pandemic and that, globally, our industry would need to respond to an unsurpassed demand in terms of both speed and volume.
The whole IVD industry mobilised at an astonishing pace. Never before have we seen such rapid development of assays followed by emergency use authorisation and CE marking. In the case of our PCR test that was an almost inconceivable 42 days from development to release. The development of our antibody test, and the launch and adoption of these tests into the market, followed similarly impressive timelines.
However, in my view, as impressive as the pace of our response, has been the willingness of everyone with knowledge and expertise to come together; and how readily multiple stakeholders from across all sectors including the NHS, Government and industry, have collaborated and formed new and innovative partnerships, to collectively support the effort.
The ABHI team have been at the heart of this collective response. Quick to update their members with timely information and intelligence from the centre; responding positively to the issues and challenges that we were facing and always at the end of the phone, creative in approach and the voice of reason and calm in that day or week’s particular storm.
Here at Roche the team demonstrated new and innovative ways to support customers remotely by, for example, changing delivery schedules to meet new demands and hosting review meetings virtually. Our technical services team, out on the frontline, have been installing new equipment such as blood gas analysers into the Nightingale hospitals, potentially putting themselves at risk. But they have all stepped up with an unflinching determination to play their part in this crisis and I couldn’t be more proud.
What also became apparent after the first few weeks was that as key stakeholders and the wider public started to understand the role and value of Diagnostics, the spotlight on our contribution grew brighter. It’s a spotlight that most of us are not used to and don’t crave but equally I think we can all see the benefits of it for the future of our industry. My hope is that this new awareness and understanding of what we do, and the massive value of the UK Diagnostics industry, will be something we can build on for decades to come.
In the world before Covid, the UK Diagnostics industry formed a critical component of the functioning of the healthcare system, with 70% of all clinical decisions relying on an IVD. What we have witnessed over the last ten weeks is that whilst the insatiable demand for Covid testing continued to grow, the demand for routine testing, in both primary and secondary care, dropped dramatically. In the world beyond Covid, our challenge will be to support the reintroduction of that routine testing in a way that enables our partners and customers to do both. Based on the response I have seen so far from everyone involved, I am in no doubt that we can meet this challenge too.
Chris Hudson, Director of Access and Innovation, Roche Diagnostics UK and Ireland & ABHI Board Member