While quick medical tests- blood gas, urine, strep- have been available for a while, recent technological developments have made it more feasible and cost-effective to offer these services at a patient’s bedside. Point of Care (POC) Technology takes many forms and offers benefits beyond the medical.
Benchmarks for POC devices include that they be small, simplified, provide quicker results and be fully portable. Any technology of this type needs to be understood and appreciated by the end user, whether it be a clinician or an at-home patient.
Filling a Need
Aside from its cost-effectiveness, POC makes it possible for primary care doctors and nurses to make better-informed decisions about patient care. Patients involvement also increases. It is estimated that the horizon for the full development of the consumer market is five to ten years.
In the developing world, patients often have to make a tough choice- try to find limited treatment close to home or risk a long journey to a hospital facility. With POC, local clinics have the power to make diagnoses and monitor treatment. Important diagnostic tests can be performed without reliance on a laboratory infrastructure.
Even in developed countries, some patients may be too elderly or infirm to make frequent visits to their doctor. Remote monitoring and online interfaces help bridge the distance between physician and patient. HIV patients, for example, can do some of their tests at home, avoiding possible social stigma.
Point-of-Care Research Network
Despite growing at-home POC utilization, the majority of POC devices are used in clinical settings, especially offices of primary care physicians. Surveys have shown broad primary care physician support for in-office testing. This reduces usage of labs and imaging centers and could open up new revenue streams at these points of contact.
The Point-of-Care Research Network, under the auspices of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Engineering, devotes itself to clinical testing, training, developing partnerships with the medical industry and evaluating user needs for device design. It also tries to increase the visibility of POC goals.
Perhaps the biggest recent revolution in medicine is the adoption of electronic patient records. This vital information is transportable with the patient and is accessible from anywhere. POC apparatus allow nurses and other caregivers to pull up essential records from a patient’s bedside.
Another important goal of POC should be to reduce the chance of error by cutting the time between when data is collected and when it is documented. Having these two functions closer in proximity makes it easier.
Point of Care Testing
Many critical diagnostic tests can now be done from handheld devices. For example, researchers based at Harvard University have created a testing device that uses the cell phone for transmitting data on diseases like malaria and diabetes. It can even test for water pollution in situ. Reminiscent of a blood glucose meter, this device’s production cost is only $25. It is undergoing field tests in India.
The ability to test in the field has the potential to revolutionize the treatment and monitoring of infectious disease outbreaks.
Examples of tests that can now be done at POC include blood glucose, electrolyte analysis, fecal occult and hemoglobin monitoring. These tests offer the possibility of better immediate clinical management.
Home nursing is another medical segment that already benefits from POC advances. Nurses use glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, and spirometers in their day-to-day interactions with home-based patients. Allowing these patients to shorten hospital stays is a crucial source of cost savings.
“Electronic House Calls”
Video interfaces allow physicians and nurses to check-in with patients to answer questions or even evaluate test results that are inputted remotely. Such information can be linked to a hospital’s IT system and added to patient records without an office visit.
Point of Care Carts
Within the hospital or doctor’s office, POC workstations provide a reliable way for medical personnel to evaluate and treat patients. Mobile cart setups can be built with specialized components and outfitted with power sources that provide freedom of movement as well as flexibility.
Scott-Clark Medical carts rely on long-lasting lithium battery technology. The FMCPT Swap-Option battery has a unique last hour alert to help manage workflow. When the shift is over, the cart’s small footprint makes it easy to store.
The carts are compatible with a variety of laptops, notebooks or tablets and offer a large work surface. The interface is adjustable for maximum work comfort and surfaces vulnerable to MRSA, and other agents are minimized.
Customization is available to fulfill the needs of each user. There are a variety of available peripherals, baskets, drawers and storage spaces. Multiple service plans are also available.
Overall, Point of Care Technology can be utilized to reduce costs while accessing better diagnostic and monitoring services for the patient.