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POCT for Infectious Diseases Delivers Laboratory Equivalent Pathology Results

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 May 2024

On-site pathology tests for infectious diseases in rural and remote locations can achieve the same level of reliability and accuracy as those conducted in hospital laboratories, a recent study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at Flinders University (Bedford Park, Australia), evaluated the effectiveness of on-site pathology testing, or Point-of-Care Testing (POCT), specifically for detecting the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in over 100 remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. In these areas, point-of-care testing is crucial for reaching patients who are otherwise isolated due to geographic, social, and cultural barriers. This is particularly vital given the high rates of infectious diseases like COVID-19 among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, where POCT offers cost-effective, accessible, and immediate diagnostic solutions.

Image: POCT offers cost-effective, accessible, and immediate diagnostic solutions (Photo courtesy of Flinders University)
Image: POCT offers cost-effective, accessible, and immediate diagnostic solutions (Photo courtesy of Flinders University)

The study focused on the analytical quality of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Point-of-Care (POC) Testing Program, initiated in April 2020. This program aimed to enhance the availability of rapid, molecular-based SARS-CoV-2 detection in remote communities. Extending to 105 communities, the program effectively helped prevent a significant number of COVID-19 cases, thereby saving considerable costs for the healthcare system. The quality of COVID-19 testing within the program was supported through comprehensive operator training and the implementation of a customized External Quality Assessment (EQA) program. This EQA program was developed in collaboration with the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Quality Assurance Programs (RCPAQAP).

“Our study demonstrates that when point-of-care testing models are effectively established and managed, the quality of pathology results can be equivalent to laboratory tests, and the benefits for patients are overwhelmingly evident,” said Dr Susan Matthews from the International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing at Flinders University. “The COVID-19 program has now been expanded to include testing for Influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as SARS-CoV-2 and has the potential to stem acute and infectious diseases in rural and remote areas whilst saving the government billions of dollars in health costs.” The study's findings were published in the journal Diagnostics on May 26, 2024.

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