At the Point of Care
Laboratory tests may also be performed at the point of care (POC) – wherever you are receiving medical care, rather than in a distant laboratory. While results from clinical laboratories remain a crucial component of healthcare, they are now complimented by tests performed outside of the laboratory, wherever you are.
These point-of-care tests span many areas of medicine and are performed in a wide variety of locations: in your home, at the doctor's office, in the emergency department, in an infectious disease containment unit, in ambulances, at an accident scene, in military clinics, in the radiology department, or on a cruise ship.
POC testing is growing as healthcare becomes more consumer-focused and individuals are interested in preventive care and managing chronic conditions. Technology has caught up to the demand for convenient, rapid tests results by enabling testing devices that are smaller, more portable, and easy to operate.
The most common point-of-care tests are blood glucose monitoring, home pregnancy tests, and blood chemistry tests. Other point-of-care tests that you may encounter include hemoglobin, fecal occult blood, rapid strep, and prothrombin time.
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). Point-of-care testing will continue to grow as new devices become available, in part because they provide immediate information to you and your healthcare providers, allowing for more timely medical treatment.
To learn more, read the article Point-of-Care Testing.