After going through multiple phases of evolution healthcare industry is now largely driven by technology as the reach and impact of technology has become pervasive in modern healthcare systems. From various tech gadgets and contrivances to advanced interventions like gene therapy, tailored medicines, regrowing damaged body parts, ‘intelligent’ surgical knife for cancer detection and robotic surgical systems, technology is used consistently in the delivery of vital healthcare and life-saving procedures.
Point-of-Care Technologies is a set of technologies used at the location of patient care helping improve healthcare outcomes. Blood glucose monitors, urine dipsticks, pregnancy tests, rapid strep tests, rapid HIV tests, hemoglobin level tests are common examples of PoCT. In past few years PoCT have advanced and the field is showing strong growth, as evidenced by new clinical or consumer products research and development directions. The widespread use of this set of technologies is driven by healthcare emphasis shifting towards greater healthcare awareness, precision treatment, optimization of patient management process, and chronic disease management – combined with advances in electronic devices and information technology.
Point-of-care technologies add to the effectiveness and efficiency in healthcare delivery, PoC devices provide critical information to clinicians assisting in the management of patient care. Point-of-care technology enables diagnosis at home, in the hospital, in an ambulance, or in the field, it effectively delivers high quality of life care at the patient’s bedside, or in the corner of a consulting room, doing away with procedures that require an entire laboratory and long hours to arrive at a proper diagnosis. PoCT use minimal workflow processes, as the testing is performed at the bedside or in close proximity to the location of patient care. Determination of need for testing is made at the bedside with the testing being implemented within a short time frame.
The advantages of PoCT are manifold for the current healthcare requirements
Point-of-Care procedures involve faster and leaner processes as testing is done on bedside and fewer steps are necessary to produce the result.
- They eliminate the need for processing and aliquoting, transporting the specimen to the laboratory, and communicating results back to the clinical staff.
- Faster access to test results allow for rapid clinical decision making, enabling more-appropriate treatments and interventions.
- PoCT methods require smaller sample volumes than those needed for traditional laboratory testing.
- PoCT can also help reduce the frequency of testing errors like, inappropriate sampling errors, errors while preparation or packaging of samples, overwhelming testing protocols and steps, and patient misidentification.
- The fact that POCT is often performed by the individual providing care to the patient may help decrease post analytical errors due to incorrect transmission of test results
POC technologies and diagnostics are ideal for the special constraints of diverse clinical settings, including homes, rural areas, acute care settings, ambulatory care and clinical research centers. Also, the in-premise application of POCT are endless, including intensive care units, neonatal care units, radiology and imaging suites, emergency care, operating rooms, renal dialysis units, diabetic clinics, delivery facilities, practitioners’ offices, outpatient and off-site clinics, nursing homes, pharmacies and in-home patient care
PoCT devices maintain patient data in digital format which helps nurses with quick access of patient information. The shift from paper documentation that involves manually created charts, to central digital access with smart graphics, reduces the workload for nurses and saves them considerable time, while the associated margin of error is reduced
RCNi UK’s Decision Support (DS) tool is one example of an advanced Point-of-Care technology, the interactive online and mobile resource, built by Impelsys, helps nurses and healthcare professionals at the time and location of decision making. The DS tool supports practitioners in arriving at informed decisions at bedside or location of care, within 20 -30 minutes of presentation of a variety of conditions or situations. RCNi DST is UK’s only point-of-care Decision Support Tool designed specifically for nurses working in community and hospital settings.
Future of POCT
The fast evolving healthcare industry has led to increasing investments in R&D on PoCT, this aids to the growth of PoCT diagnostic market globally, which is expected to surpass US $30 billion in the year 2020. Point-of-care devices are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, the lab-on-a-chip capabilities of the latest generation point-of-care tests offer on-time patient care, and even analysis of human and pathogen genomic data to accelerate more appropriate and personalized therapies. Combined with the appropriate strategies for clinical needs assessment, validation, and implementation, these and future POCTs may significantly affect healthcare and associated outcomes and costs.
There is an additional potential in point-of-care devices and tools getting personalized for individual patients, enabled by advances in genomic and precision medicine, this can maximize the desired health impact at the individual and population levels. These expectations have fueled tremendous advances in the science and technology of POC diagnostic device development. the impact of PoCT on healthcare has not yet been fully reached and it’s a long way to go.