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Point-of-Care Testing

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Why is point-of-care testing growing?

As healthcare becomes more consumer-focused, the need for convenient diagnosis, monitoring, and screening tests is expanding worldwide. In some cases, technology has caught up; testing devices that are smaller, more portable, and easier to operate have been developed.

The market for point-of-care testing is estimated to grow 9.3% between 2013 and 2018. There are a number of reasons for this trend. Point-of-care tests provide results in real time, rather than in hours or days, so they can help you and your providers make faster, and hopefully better, decisions about your medical care. With results in hand during your consultation, you can receive immediate follow-up testing or treatments without returning for another office visit.

For example, if you are given a point-of-care test and diagnosed with influenza right away, your healthcare practitioner can explain why you don't need antibiotics and instead treat you with an antiviral medication if it's appropriate.

Point-of-care testing is useful as medical care shifts to a focus on prevention, early detection, and managing chronic conditions. In the emergency room, early detection can help determine if people with flu-like symptoms have influenza or if they have a higher-risk infection like Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). In the healthcare practitioner's office, the rapid strep test allows for earlier treatment of strep throat and reduces the risk of complications from not treating it. At home, glucose meters allow people with diabetes to tailor their insulin therapy. It makes up the largest segment of the point-of-care testing market.

Woman performing point-of-care testThere is also a growing need for rapid screening for infectious diseases like HIV, dengue fever, malaria, and influenza. Infectious disease tests are useful in community clinics and remote or resource-limited areas where there may not be access to a central lab or where infrastructure is limited for transporting samples. Infectious disease tests at the point of care can also lead to prompter treatment, which can prevent infections from spreading. Photo source: CDC/Theresa Roebuck

When time is of the essence, such as in emergency departments or at accident scenes, point-of-care tests provide immediate information about blood gases, electrolytes, or troponin.

When used as part of a larger healthcare strategy, point-of-care testing can make diagnosis and treatment a smoother and more efficient process. Point-of-care tests are most beneficial when they are viewed as one step in a testing continuum that may begin at the point-of-care, but eventually leads to coordinated testing with a central laboratory.

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