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Point-of-Care Testing

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Benefits of Point-of-Care Testing

Patient getting testing at bedsideWhen used properly, point-of-care testing can lead to more efficient, effective medical treatments and improved quality of medical care.

At home, point-of-care tests allow for more frequent and more consistent testing and can empower you to take control of your medical care. Ideally, the end result is higher quality care. For example, clinical trials have shown that individuals monitoring blood thinners (anticoagulants) like warfarin at home had fewer major complications from the treatment.

Point-of-care testing is also crucial in emergency situations and in the operating room. If someone is having a stroke, a first responder or other healthcare practitioner needs to measure prothrombin time/international normalized ratio (PT/INR) to test blood coagulation before he or she can give stroke medications. Point-of-care tests are also used to measure coagulation during open-heart surgery and organ transplants.

Point-of-care tests can also help alleviate emergency room overcrowding by reducing the time it takes to treat people and thus shortening their stays. They are also useful in disaster situations like Hurricane Katrina or any scenario that prevents access to power, water, and laboratory infrastructure.

When used in a healthcare practitioner's office, point-of-care testing can reduce follow-up visits or calls. In one study, delivering the routine tests hemoglobin A1c, hemoglobin, and lipids at the point-of-care decreased tests ordered for each patient by 21%, reduced follow-up calls by 89%, and reduced patient follow-up visits by 61%.

Field hospitalOne concern with conventional laboratory testing is that people may not return for treatment if they have to go home and wait for results. This has been the case for HIV viral load and tuberculosis testing. In one study at a clinic in Ghana, point-of-care testing helped remedy this problem. When people seeking care at a tuberculosis clinic were offered HIV tests on the spot, they were more likely to also return for HIV care. Photo source: CDC/ Lt. Cmdr. Gary Brunette

Point-of-care testing can also provide test results in locations where clinical laboratories don't exist or are too far away, like in the developing world, rural regions, or on cruise ships or even the space shuttle.

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