At the Point of Care
Laboratory tests may also be performed at the point of care (POC) – in other words, at or near the site of patient care rather than in a distant laboratory. Doctors' offices and clinics sometimes perform testing in the office, and hospitals may perform specific tests at the patient's bedside.
Labs within physician offices and clinics are generally small in size and offer limited test menus due to the expense of equipment, supplies, and personnel for the office and the relatively small number of daily samples. You are likely to know and interact with the person taking your sample and conducting the tests in this setting. This type of testing provides rapid results and offers convenience.
Point-of-care testing done directly at the patient's bedside has been increasing due to technological advances that have introduced portable devices that are easy to use and can produce rapid results. Examples include blood glucose tests, blood gas monitoring systems, and whole blood analyzers for cardiac markers and blood clotting tests. Tests included in POC programs must comply with quality standards comparable to tests performed in central laboratories (see Lab Oversight: A Building Block of Trust). It is expected that POC testing will increase in frequency as new devices become available, in part because they provide immediate information to physicians, allowing for more timely medical treatment.