15 October 2021
2 min read
Speed, accuracy, and reliability have always been giving laboratory clinics a cutting edge over their competition. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these characteristics even more crucial as many nations hang on to testing to keep the pandemic under control.
In the Philippines, in particular, the health crisis pushed the further rise and prevalence of point-of-care testing (POCT). The increase in the number of its facilities in the country has made positive contributions to the stemming of the rapid transmission of COVID-19 while the vaccines are still being rolled out.
POCT also has an important role in the ramping up of testing, which according to the prevailing view across governments, is one sure way to restart economies and gear towards recovery, apart from aggressive immunization programs.
But while the pandemic is seen as a temporary situation, many of its impacts are long-lasting. Many studies pointed out that even after the COVID-19 pandemic is contained, POCT is here to stay.
Let’s have a look into the reasons why.
There is a preconception that laboratory tests are lengthy and laborious. Patients often had to go through a gauntlet of multiple touchpoints. They had to interact with different people in different departments, sometimes in separate buildings. Once they handed off their specimens, they had to wait for days or weeks for the results or updates.
But the challenges of COVID-19 pressed laboratories to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. Previously, it's difficult to reconcile testing performance and speed. However, thanks to recent technological advancements, POCT made it possible for labs to deliver both.
POCT, as defined by the Department of Health, is the diagnostic testing conducted at or near the site where patient care is delivered rather than in a clinical laboratory. POCT encompasses bedside testing, outpatient care, and home care. Next-generation POCT has proven its ability to generate highly sensitive COVID test results within 15 minutes.
“POCT has come of age in the pandemic because of its ability to deliver accurate results while you wait, compared to four or five days’ delay for results,” emphasized professor Chris Price, emeritus professor in clinical biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London.
“POCT delivers results more quickly and reduces the need to send a patient to the hospital for an outpatient appointment.”
The barriers to rapid testing are going down as next-generation technologies have enabled rapid test performance to match the services that traditional laboratories provide.
When COVID-19 struck the country in the early months of 2020, there were only 23 laboratories across major regions capable of providing POCT, specifically real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR). With POCT proving to be an effective measure against COVID-19, the number of laboratories and hospitals in the Philippines accredited with the Department of Health to perform POCT (either or both RRT-PCR and cartridge-based PCR tests) has reached 279.
While POCTs do not exactly replace tests done in laboratories, patients are given a wider array of options to choose from according to their needs and price preferences. For instance, a Filipino company, which brought in a point-of-care testing system in the country, promised that the “new test will no longer hurt the pockets of Filipinos.”
Similarly, a study conducted in the United Kingdom found that the cost of using POCT was lower than the laboratory-led tests.
Several studies reveal that inadequate or lack of transportation, particularly in rural and remote areas, impedes patient access to healthcare services. A number of patients also elect to receive POCT in their homes for fear of exposure to COVID-19.
With over 30% of Filipinos failing to comply with minimal social distancing requirements, patients' concerns about the risks of contracting the virus outdoors are valid.
As POCT can be performed almost anywhere, it effectively addresses the issue of transportation and geographic barriers. Laboratories can dispatch lab workers quickly to a variety of locations and scenarios. Lab professionals can conduct tests at the patient’s location and pull up the results in minutes.
POCT’s benefits go beyond COVID-19. It is effective in a wide range of settings and can be used for other health conditions including hepatitis, diabetes, anemia, and HIV.
While POCT has clearly been essential in diagnosing COVID-19, it also allowed laboratories to provide patients with chronic illnesses to receive rapid treatment and monitoring in safer environments during the pandemic.
Patients who have received point-of-care testing have exhibited 24% to 85% increased adherence to their physician recommendations. Patient satisfaction also improved from 77% to 88%.
POCT is bound to grow and continue to save lives while eliminating unnecessary costs and risks for both laboratories and patients. This is a sound argument for modern labs to embrace and adopt POCT.
“We created high-performance testing that is faster, more convenient, and cheaper than traditional diagnostics because it will improve people’s health and wellbeing,” said Dr. Pooja Pathak, LumiraDx vice president of platform strategy.
Apart from health and wellbeing, POCT empowers patients to take more control of their health now that they have access to fast, accurate, affordable, and high-performance lab tests and services.
Here at Dashlabs.ai, we help your labs give your patients that empowerment.
Written by Misfits for Dashlabs.ai and copyedited by CG and NPC.