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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Regional patients benefit from point-of-care testing for infectious diseases

Health Industry Hub | May 31, 2024 |

Diagnostics & MedTech News: A recent report underscores the reliability of on-site pathology tests for infectious diseases, particularly in rural and remote areas.

According to a Flinders University study, point-of-care testing (POCT) for molecular-based detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in over 100 remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia yielded results comparable in quality to those from hospital laboratories.

Dr Susan Matthews, from Flinders University’s International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing, emphasised the significance of the findings, stating, “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.”

In regions like rural Australia, where accessing healthcare facilities can be challenging due to long distances and cultural factors, the role of POC testing is pivotal.

Dr Matthews noted, “In Australia, POC testing supports hard-to-reach patients, including Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas, where long distances and social and cultural factors can prevent individuals from getting tested, meaning that infectious diseases can often be left untreated.”

The study focused on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 POC testing program, initiated in April 2020 to enhance rapid molecular-based SARS-CoV-2 detection in remote communities.

“The program reached 105 communities across Australia and was found to have contributed to averting a significant number of COVID-19 infections, resulting in substantial cost savings to the healthcare system,” she said.

Key to the success of the program was the implementation of a robust operator training program and a customized External Quality Assessment (EQA) program.

“The EQA program allowed us to assess the accuracy and reliability of the COVID-19 test results and confirmed the technical competency of the trained remote health service POCT operators. Our findings highlight an ongoing need for well-designed, cost-effective, and externally accredited EQA programs, not just for SARS-CoV-2 but also for other diseases that require POC testing,” Dr Matthews explained.

Expanding the COVID-19 program to include testing for Influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), underscores its potential to mitigate acute and infectious diseases in rural and remote areas while also delivering substantial cost savings to the healthcare system.

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