Wednesday, December 5, 2007

“Diagnose Twice, Treat Once – Saving Lives by not Wasting Time”

FasterCures recently attended a briefing on Advanced Market Commitments designed to educate Capitol Hill staff on innovative financial mechanisms for tackling global disease issues. One of the issues touched upon during the discussion focused on the need for robust diagnostic tools to deliver care and treatment, not just development of the care and treatment pharmaceuticals.

FasterCures saves lives by saving time. Part of saving time is not wasting time in mis-diagnosis and therefore mis-treatment.

Addressing and finding solutions to healthcare problems in less-developed countries is often slowed by policy issues, regulations, infrastructure, access and delivery of services, and a lack of sensitive and specific diagnostic tools. And, unfortunately, in less developed countries, children, women and men really pay the price of mis-diagnosis (and with little chance of recourse). In regions with high malaria prevalence, for example, 50-80% of cases diagnosed using a syndrome approach are not validated or confirmed with laboratory-based tests, leading to significant levels of mis-diagnosis and in worst case scenarios (which happens too often) death – this is unacceptable.

These kinds of failures breed even more frustration among care-givers already working in challenging environments; further reduce a patient’s confidence in the health system; wastes human and financial resources; and, worst of all leads to unnecessary deaths. Through the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service, we will examine how disease research and delivery organizations create paths from bench science to patient level solutions that include both medical treatments and the robust infrastructure necessary to deliver the medical solutions to the patient. It is clear, then, part of the infrastructure must include precise diagnosis with sensitive and specific diagnostic tools to avoid unnecessary suffering and death. With correct and contextual design, the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service can serve this need by saving our most precious resource – time.

Priya Patil, Global Health Program Manager, FasterCures

Priya Patil joined FasterCures in 2007 as the Global Health Program Manager for the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service. Upon joining FasterCures, Priya was a Senior Research Scientist for Futures Group, a Constella Company. As Primary Investigator of studies in sub-Saharan Africa on adherence to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) and co-Investigator for an evaluation of Palliative Care programs, Priya led technical teams in design, development and data use activities. As Team Leader and Program Manager for Futures Group’s GHAIN project, Priya led the development and implementation of a patient management and monitoring system for Nigerian government facilities providing ART. She also served as Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Lead a nine (9) country project, developing a health management information system that was used to capture data for clinical, programmatic and evaluation purposes under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Prior to her work at Futures Group, Priya was Co-Primary Investigator and Field Coordinator for the World Bank and Johns Hopkins University Private Willingness to Pay for AIDS Vaccine Project in Uganda.

Priya has over ten years of experience implementing programs and conducting research in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. Priya has published in several peer-reviewed journals and presented her work at both international and domestic conferences. In addition, Priya was the recipient of NIH’s National Research Service Award and a Fogarty New Investigator Award. Priya received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.


David said...

It's not just the patient's life that gets saved with a faster diagnosis. The Stop TB foundation estimates that 400,000 of the 1.4 million TB cases could be prevented if we developed faster and better diagnostics.

Glad someone as bright as Dr. Patil is leading the way on these issues.

Priya Patil said...

Dear David,

Thank you for your comment.

Assuming that many of those 400,000 TB cases were a result of mis-diagnosed cases of TB underscores the need for development of better, faster and more robust diagnostic tools and that aren’t reliant on technology developed over 100 years ago (i.e. sputum smears). But, perhaps age-old, tried and true (~50% of the time) still has a place in public health practice. Perhaps the solution is not in developing one highly technological diagnostic tool that although is very sensitive and specific requires a sophisticated technician and laboratory, but multiple diagnostic tools that cater to the skills within the different levels of health facilities found in LDCs. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that research in diagnostic tools is as critical now as ever before and FasterCures can help by trying to accelerate the process.