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Point-of-Care Testing

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The Future of Point-of-Care Testing

Getting a fingerstick for testingFor some conditions, like diabetes, point-of-care testing has already drastically altered how care is delivered and managed. With the market for point-of-care testing only expected to expand, it will continue to change the way healthcare is delivered, making care more patient-driven and focused, providing more data to support evidence-based medicine. Photo source: CDC/Theresa Roebuck

New point-of-care tests that may emerge in the future include new technologies intended to manage critically ill patients in the emergency room, in the hospital, or undergoing surgery, such as complete blood count or tests for drug overdoses. And new tests may be developed for earlier cancer detection, such as cervical cancer. Point-of-care tests will also continue to be important for managing chronic conditions.

Infectious disease testing is the fastest growing area of point-of-care testing. These tests are intended to diagnose infections quickly, to allow timely treatment, limit their spread, and slow or prevent outbreaks. These may include point-of-care tests for Lyme disease, avian influenza (bird flu), chikungunya virus, and drug-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

In the developing world and remote rural regions, the use of point-of-care tests is motivated by the need for better options to make diagnosis and treatment of diseases like malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis more accessible and affordable. In the developed world, respiratory and sexually transmitted infections are areas where new point-of-care tests could help.

For the last two decades, efforts have been underway to develop new technologies to bring more tests to the point-of-care and to make the tests more sensitive and specific. Molecular techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) will likely be used to deliver new infectious disease tests at the point-of-care. Another big focus area has been lab-on-a-chip systems. These miniature devices are designed to rapidly automate every step of a laboratory test using very small sample sizes, without the need for manual handling of the sample.

Point-of-care testing is never likely to replace clinical laboratory testing. However, as technology evolves to meet the demand for more streamlined, higher quality healthcare, point-of-care testing will continue to be a growing part of your healthcare experience.

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