I have had to do some work on Ebola Preparedness recently and this has involved looking at the role in such cases of various point of care tests (POCT), that can thus be utilised at the patient’s bedside.
At first sight, the POCTs I have looked at seem fantastic. They generally produce accurate results, they are very quick and even I can use them.
However there is a darker side..
There are aspects of POCT where the lab still wins hands down. This is with regards to electronic recording and interfacing of results into a result repository, external and internal quality control of the test, maintenance of the equipment, and training the users.
With regards to the first problem I think wireless interfacing of POCTs will start to become more prevalent as the technology is now available (click here for an example).
With regards to the other problems, I think it is extremely important that the laboratory has complete jurisdiction over POCT within any given institution, and that the accreditation agencies recognise these pieces of equipment as part of the laboratory. It is only by doing this that all the quality control measures that are necessary for such equipment can be implemented and assessed.
I don’t see POCT as a threat to the laboratory, just because the equipment is not physically in the laboratory itself. A good laboratory should embrace POCT and see it as an integral part of their operation.
Click here for another article on the development of POCT and Quality Control issues (about a 10 min read)