The time is right to set up a diagnostic lab in India. Rapid commercialization of the healthcare industry and diagnostics in particular has lead to a massive boom of labs in India. Chains and stand alone diagnostic centers have mushroomed all over the country and an MD in pathology/radiology is more prized than ever. Starting a diagnostic setup is albeit not an easy task. Ample research, planning and investment go before execution. The execution begins as a war, with planning and a lot of zeal. Setting up a diagnostic lab will need space, capital and knowledge about medical tests and latest investigations. Here is a quick overview of what it takes before one can start a testing hot spot.

Space

The prime requirement and largest investment of any healthcare setup is space. One needs to spot a location such that the diagnostic lab will be accessible to large numbers of people. The machines needed for processing blood samples, CT and MRI scans, ultrasound, etc are huge and need adequate space and cool environment for efficient functioning. A lab should preferably be situated on the ground floor so that the elderly, expectant mothers, those with disabilities can access it conveniently. A cool environment should be maintained by adequate air conditioning and hygiene should be at par. Contaminated surroundings might lead to contamination of samples and that can be an indelible stain on your center’s reputation. Washrooms are a must  as stool and urine samples need to be collected for tests or prior to certain imaging procedures.

Finance

The machines required for investigation procedures are expensive; one should bear in mind the investment that will be required for these apart from the property, staff, everyday stationary, electricity and water supplies, advertising expenses, etc.

Instruments

A diagnostic lab should be well equipped with collection tubes and syringes of various bores needed to draw blood in adults as well as paediatric patients. These days, vacu-tainers are the rule for blood collection in most centres as they reduce the blood collection time and reduce chances of contamination drastically. Samples of urine and stool need different containers for their storage. Ample space is needed to store samples during the day prior to processing. Labeling samples is essential and one needs adequate staff for the same. Syringes and instruments should be sterilized and hygienic prior to use.

Staff

An organization is nothing but a reflection of the staff it employees. Skilled, trained and licensed laboratory technicians and pathologists/radiologists are vital for a successful centre. An enquiry desk/receptionist/co-ordinator is another prerequisite for a patient-friendly diagnostic lab.  Laboratory technicians who are skilled at handling large numbers should be appointed along with a few who will do home visits for patients who are unable to visit the centre for donating a samples for testing. X-ray, CT scan, MRI and USG all need consulting doctors for giving appropriate conclusions on the reports.

License/ Registration

There are numerous licenses needed to start up a new laboratory. It is essential to renew the license year after year to avoid any legal complications. Registration of the diagnostic lab in the locality and with the government authorities is necessary prior to construction and accreditation. Accreditation by various authorities heighten patient confidence in the operation of the center.

Medical knowledge

One must have a medical representative who will update the staff about the latest tests and investigation procedures available in the medical fraternity.

Setting up a diagnostic lab needs consideration of multitudinous minute details and meticulous, systematized efforts to reap rich benefits for a lifetime.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD