Watching Star Trek growing up, the idea of having a device that could provide instant diagnosis of health seemed about as futuristic as the show itself. Bones would simply pass his tricorder over the patient and know instantly what was wrong with them. It seemed futuristic because in our daily lives, something as simple as a blood test involves an entire supply chain of equipment and doctors. The most painful part has never been the needle — it is the wait for results to come back.
Radisens Diagnostics, an Irish biomedical company, is bringing us their own version of the tricorder with their Gemini device. Chronic diabetes, heart disease, thyroid function, renal function and a complete blood count, all key diagnostic tools for the physician, can be tested in the moment, and more tests are planned for rollout going forward. Known as point-of-care testing (POCT) , the ability to see a patient, understand what’s going wrong, and prescribe a treatment is far more powerful than performing tests and having results hours or days later (often delivered by a staff member rather than the doctor).
Point-of-care Testing (POCT)
POCT stands to change how disasters and accidents are managed and is already showing that lives can be saved with faster testing results. In the aftermath of disaster, doctors can far more quickly triage the truly sick that need immediate help. Infectious diseases like ebola will be more effectively managed when the threat of long quarantines (often alongside sick patients) doesn’t drive away those that might have the disease. Underdeveloped countries that lack laboratories stand to benefit greatly from POCT.
The future of POCT is bright, with predictions that we’ll seen have test for outbreaks/epidemics, MRSA (highly antibiotic resistant bacteria), sepsis, stroke and more. Doctors can make better decisions on when to admit patients, saving the cost of unnecessary hospitalizations but also making sure a patient is immediately admitted when necessary. This doesn’t mean the laboratory will go away, but its use will shift more toward the things that require greater interpretation and longer or more manual process.
The benefits of POCT don’t stop with its use by medical professionals. As tests become cheaper and easier to use, home healthcare professionals or even the patient can be the administrator. Imagine when you home first aid kit includes tests for common, treatable conditions and not just aspirin and Band-aids.