POCT   >   Background
POCT Background

What is POCT?

POCT is an abbreviation for Point of Care Testing and the technology is sometimes called Near Patient Testing. The idea behind POCT is that the testing of a patients sample (eg blood, urine) is carried out next to or near the patient. Test results are obtained in a short space of time and the results are visible by medical staff immediately.  Medical practitioners are able to make immediate decisions with the patient present. This saves patients and doctors time by avoiding the need to make repeat appointments to get the results of the tests when samples are sent away for analysis.


How immediately are the results available?

The new generation of low cost analysers are able to process a sample in approx 5 - 15 minutes (depending on the tests that are required and the method of analysis the analyser uses). Large samples do not need to be taken from the patient - the typical sample is a finger-prick blood or urine sample. The schematic below is a typical sequence of events with the patient having a consultation with a doctor 30-45 minutes after they have arrived in a clinic.

This revolution in medical care saves time both for doctors and patients. The take-up of this technology has been hampered by the lack of low cost analyser interfaces and suitably validated computer systems to process the electronic data.


How do the costs per test compare with the cost of analysis by a large central laboratory?

The answer will depend on the number of samples that are processed. The capital costs of the POCT analysers and their maintenance costs are very much lower than the cost of large laboratory analysers. The cost of the reagents, or test cartridges is more expensive than those for large laboratory analysers. The overall cost equation will depend on the number of samples taken as well as the courier costs incurred when samples are sent away for analysis. The POCT model will work well when the volume of samples per day is small - typically less than15 a day. The cost equation using POCT for a clinic analysing a small number of samples is very favourable - and this does not include the huge amount of time saved in avoiding repeat appointments.


How do the lab results obtained using POCT equipment compare with those from a large central laboratory?


There have been a large number of correlation studies to compare the results of POCT against those in a central laboratory. The correlation is very good - the results from POCT equipment closely matches that of analysers in a central laboratory if the same care in sample handling, labelling and QC is followed. Staff training in sample handling in POCT is required. The POCT clinic should ideally become a member of an external QA (Quality Assurance) scheme such as NAQAS. The membership of such external QA schemes will help to improve the quality and methods used by POCT clinics.


How does this work in practice?


A downloadable PDF of the schematic is available by clicking above or: POCT v5.pdf