Point of care tests represent a paradigm shift and open up new opportunities for medical services, although there remains a need to tackle regulatory and operational problems. Will the traditional central laboratory cease to play the predominant role it has played to date?

At present, most medical tests have to be performed in central laboratories in hospitals or outpatient departments, due to the size and complexity of the equipment required. Furthermore, many of these laboratories have other units that are separate from the central laboratory, while point of care tests (POCTs) that include any diagnostic test performed where or close to where the patient is situated are proving a major breakthrough. This change offers new opportunities for improving the quality of patient care.

Without transport delays

Compared with taking samples from the patient and transporting these to the central laboratory for analysis, POC testing reduces transport delays, results are obtained more quickly, and the response time is also shorter, be this in the consulting room or wherever the patient may be receiving care.

Rapid POC techniques

The applications of POC techniques range from obtaining haemoglobin and a complete haemogram, to pregnancy and blood glucose tests and cardiac biomarkers. Point of care tests also include coagulation and platelet function tests, HIV tests, detection of viral or bacterial infections and allergy tests. The wide range of tests refocuses the traditional role of the central laboratory, which will no longer have the importance it has at present.

Professional adaptation

As with any sweeping change in a sector, professionals must acknowledge that POC testing is a development from which there is no return. Medical care professionals should explore this testing in greater depth and take advantage of the new opportunities it offers for improving patient care.

Higher quality patient care

As part of this new patient care, it is necessary to constantly review the risks and benefits of POC tests. One of the key advantages they bring is that moving the patient is avoided. Furthermore, POC testing makes it possible to obtain a diagnosis quickly both inside and outside a hospital, while it improves patient flow management and enhances the confidence of doctors in their diagnoses. In short, the great opportunity offered by POC testing is that the patient can benefit from better diagnosis and care.

Compatible quality

However, POC tests also entail high costs (in some cases higher than central laboratory costs) and constant monitoring of instruments. Another challenge facing these types of tests lies in conducting them and correlating them with the values of the central laboratory, if these are not automated. Therefore, the use of POC techniques must guarantee a level of quality compatible with that of central laboratories.

POC tests in pharmacies

POC tests also represent a key opportunity for pharmacies: the number of these tests is increasing and these points are well positioned to integrate POC tests into their business. Pharmacy-based POC tests include: control of chronic illnesses such as diabetes (blood glucose and A1C), cholesterol, HIV, hepatitis C, and other important tests such as blood lead levels and genetic tests.

However, in order for pharmacies to take advantage of this service opportunity, there is a need to tackle regulatory problems and comply with good practices in providing this service: clean work surfaces before testing, tests in a well-lit area, inspection of the equipment and the electrical connections to ensure that they are safe and function correctly, use of the appropriate device according to the manufacturer’s instructions and obtaining the required sample volume for the test, in addition to checking that the samples have been collected and handled correctly.

Idneo can help you

POC tests will continue to grow, with an important role played by technologies such as the application of molecular diagnostic tests using portable equipment, while in the field of POC tests applied to infectious diseases continued efforts are being made with devices that reduce human error. In view of this growth, Idneo offers customised point of care solutions. Contact us and we will offer you a comprehensive product manufacturing service, quality certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 standards for medical device projects.