Article

The Rise of Home Diagnostics and Proactive Self-care

28 Jun 2022

Essentra Packaging investigates the rise in demand for at-home diagnostics.

A rapidly increasing number of global consumers are taking greater interest in and control of their personal health and wellbeing. A recent Global Health & Wellness Study of 17 Markets carried out by NielsenIQ reported 48% of global consumers regularly make proactive health and wellness choices and these health-conscious consumers are driving the phenomenal growth of the over-the-counter home diagnostics market.

The home care and testing market is enabling consumers to gain greater control over their everyday wellbeing. Test kits conveniently and affordably purchased over-the-counter or online provide rapid results without the need for traditional referrals and, in many cases, laboratories. The process is discreet, personalised and fast.

At-home testing kits can be used to detect a vast range of conditions, including infectious diseases, health issues, allergies, deficiencies, pregnancies and substance abuse. The testing kits vary from cassettes and midstream applications to strips, test panels and dip cards, but they are all designed with simplicity of use and affordability in mind.

The Home Diagnostics Market Insiders 2021-2031 report compiled by Transparency Market Research revealed the most widely used at-home diagnostic device is the glucose monitoring kit. The soaring number of adults living with diabetes no doubt contributes to the continued growth of this market segment. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 537 million adults are living with diabetes worldwide, a figure that is expected to increase to 783 million by 2045.

Whilst glucose testing kits dominate the market, there has been a noticeable shift in the use of wider home diagnostics following the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only did the pandemic led to a huge surge in demand for Covid-19 home testing kits, but global lockdown restrictions resulted in fewer people accessing traditional healthcare services and more acquiring a greater interest in managing their personal health and wellness. These factors combined to accelerate the market’s growth. FutureWise Market Research & Consulting now forecasts growth of over 5% by 2028, with a projected market value of $7.6 billion USD.

Despite its substantial growth, the market faces a number of challenges. Calls for equitable access to diagnostics are increasing. According to the ESOMAR-certified market research company, Fact.MR, the US accounts for 40% of the industry’s market revenue and the European market is buoyant in the UK, France and Germany. However, the industry has yet to successfully penetrate low- and middle-income countries. Limited access to diagnostic equipment leaves the most vulnerable exposed to the risks associated with the pandemic and other infectious diseases. The Lancet’s commission on diagnostics, Transforming Access to Diagnostics, reveals “47% of the global population has little or no access to diagnostics.” It estimates approximately 1.1m premature deaths could be avoided annually by prioritising the use of diagnostics in Low to Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

Whilst progress has been made for some viruses, such as HIV and Zika, a number of complex issues remain for manufacturers of point-of-care (‘POC’) and at-home testing devices in certain regions. With little appetite for investment in LMIC diagnostics, financial barriers are concerning for vulnerable populations, and this is compounded by supply chain, logistical and geographical challenges. The likelihood is that diagnostic technology will be required to further evolve to meet the demands of specific locations.

Quality assurance hampers the use of POC and home testing kits in some LMICs, so providing greater clarity in this area is of immense benefit to brands, manufacturers and end users alike. Smart packaging solutions, such as track and trace, RFID and QR code technologies, contribute towards improved stock control and quality management systems. Incorporating lighter, alternative materials into the design of diagnostic device packaging can contribute to reductions in size and weight, making it easier to transport and store products. Carton packs are particularly useful because they are light and can be formed to incorporate in-built crumple zones and tamper-evident security features, without the need for plastics keeping sustainability and recyclability front of mind too.

The challenges are not limited to low- and middle-income countries, of course. The global diagnostic market is subject to the pharmaceutical industry’s complex regulatory framework. Regulations differ from country to country, which is why product compliance, quality assurance and product efficacy must be clearly stated. Product packaging innovations, such as folded leaflets and mini booklets provide the necessary space to communicate regulatory information, such as the new European UDI system and product serialisation details. Flexible printing technologies can accommodate these requirements with ease and digital printing also enables brands to customise and personalise the messages displayed on packaging, which enhances their engagement with patients and consumers.

In its wellness study, NielsonIQ found that consumers associate environmental responsibility with personal wellbeing. Deloitte’s Sustainable Consumer research revealed that 85% of UK consumers consider sustainability within their lifestyle choices. Single-use plastics and product lifecycles continue to concern consumers. In addressing this, manufacturers of diagnostic devices must balance the protection of public health and infection control with responsible environmental and sustainable practices. These can conflict, which is why the industry has adopted a highly proactive approach to reducing its environmental impact across its wider activities. Manufacturers continually seek to reduce their emissions, optimise resource usage and improve the management of internal waste. The packaging of diagnostic devices is also changing to meet environmental concerns. Plastic fitments, for example, are being replaced with fibre alternatives, making it viable for consumers to control waste at home. Brands must demonstrate these green credentials in order to engage with the rising number of eco-centric consumers.

According to the global management consultancy firm McKinsey, the global wellness market is valued at approximately $1.5 trillion USD. Enabling consumers to manage and understand their own wellbeing requirements through the use of at-home diagnostics will inevitably contribute towards the evolution of global healthcare. The consumer is able to receive faster diagnoses, make informed choices and effectively manage their overall physical and mental health. Clinicians and healthcare providers are able to screen patients with greater ease, identify potential issues earlier and optimise treatment plans. The growing trend in proactive self-care not only benefits the pharma and healthcare industries financially, but through the wider use of POC and at-home diagnostics has the power to transform and save lives.

To find out more about Essentra Packaging and its development of home testing kit packaging solutions, click here.