Greater connectivity at the point of care is expected to facilitate prompt and effective treatment. Improved clinical outcomes, especially for time-sensitive indications, such as cardiac diagnostics, are likely to encourage the deployment of point of care or near patient tests. The development of POCT connectivity is also anticipated to reduce the costs associated with a centralised laboratory.
A combination of better clinical outcomes, cost-saving potential and routine hospital modernisation processes along with vendor push is thus set to boost uptake of POC testing in Europe. Penetration rates of this new technology are projected to increase significantly in 2005-2006. Three phases are likely to mark the evolution of POC testing and connectivity: the connection of point of care data to the laboratory information system (LIS), the integration of radiology information from the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) with diagnostics from the LIS and the roll out of a fully integrated system with hospital-wide data availability using the hospital information system (HIS).
The public sector holds the greatest potential in terms of usage volume. Restricted funding and dependence on historic based budgeting have, however, impeded the uptake of new technologies such as POCT or near patient testing. The difficulty of quantifying financial benefits in terms of work flow changes is, moreover, retarding the implementation of these new technologies in public sector hospitals. Here, the popularisation of the total cost care concept could help make a strong case for point of care connectivity. This broader, long-term view of hospital functionality could demonstrate the benefits offered by point of care and near patient testing.
"Where a more holistic view of hospital operations is taken, point of care and near patient testing have advantages for patient care, and in some instances, overall costs", stated Mr. Cherrington from Frost & Sullivan. "The improved aspects of patient care will, in turn, encourage many of the non-laboratory health care professionals to accept or even champion point of care testing."
He elaborated: "For instance, early treatment of clinical conditions diagnosed by point of care devices is inevitably much less expensive than remedial care following patient deterioration. Furthermore, without accurate measuring and monitoring, it is impossible to accurately estimate the cost for consumables used in medical procedures, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint waste caused by inappropriate treatment or poor surgical practice."
New hospitals or facilities are expected to offer the greatest potential for uptake of point of care testing and near testing. The experience of these early adopters is likely to have a positive ripple effect. With time, established health care institutions are expected to update their existing facilities with these new technologies.
The immediate challenge for vendors will be to address the scepticism of health care practitioners about these new technologies. In particular, vendors will have to assuage concerns of centralised laboratory staff that point of care and near patient tests will render them redundant. Vendors will also have to factor in the impact that such technologies will have on health care professionals involved in point of care testing from a non-laboratory background. The responsibility of misdiagnosis will shift from a centralised service to these non-laboratory staff, thereby increasing their workload pressures.
"In order to promote the technology, full details of costs, staffing changes, work practice changes and clinical outcomes must be put into the public domain. This requires a great deal of confidence on the part of the vendor as it may reveal commercially-sensitive aspects of their activity", noted Mr. Cherrington. Adoption of point of care technology is, therefore, likely to be driven by a market leader. The equipment manufacturer Roche Diagnostics appears to be the most likely candidate to spearhead such efforts.
For more information about the white paper on "Hospital Connectivity - Impact on Point of Care Testing" you can contact Mrs. Katja Feick from Frost & Sullivan.