Point of Care Testing (POCT)
What is Point of Care Testing?
Point-of-care testing (POCT) is defined as medical testing at or near the site of patient care by specially trained healthcare (non-laboratory) professionals. These tests typically involve blood and urine testing. The goal of POCT is to collect the specimen and obtain accurate results in a very short period of time at or near the location of the patient.
POCT can be carried out in a wide range of settings, in primary care, the community and secondary care, supporting the delivery of the right care in the right place at the right time.
What are the advantages of POCT?
The main aim, and benefit, of POCT is to bring the test conveniently and immediately to the patient. This increases the likelihood that the physician and care team will receive the results quicker, enabling clinicians to support the timely diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of patients.
What are the disadvantages of POCT?
There can be many limitations associated with POCT, particularly if correct analytical procedures are not adhered to. It is essential that POCT is undertaken correctly to ensure accurate and reliable results. Poor quality of analysis, poor record keeping, a lack of report interpretation, failure to detect abnormal results, unauthorised processing, and inappropriate testing are critical areas that directly affect patient results and care.
Furthermore, POCT devices are unable to detect lipaemic, icteric and haemolysed samples.
Result quality is often directly related to sample quality; a poor sample or incorrect analytical technique will yield poor results. For example, poor blood gas sample preparation and handling can often result in incorrect blood gas, pH, haemoglobin and potassium results as a consequence of room air contamination, settling of the cells and haemolysis, respectively.
Put simply, an incorrect test result can result in the wrong treatment and potentially life threatening consequences.