Australians living in rural and remote areas experience a significantly higher burden of acute care episodes compared to those living in metropolitan and urban areas. A contributing factor is the effect of geographical isolation and its impact on access to health services including pathology testing. We aim to assess the benefits of using point-of-care testing at remotely located health centres of the Northern Territory. Point-of-care testing enables pathology testing to be performed on-site, with results available during the patient consultation. We will investigate the clinical benefits of using point-of-care testing to either rule-out a potential acute medical problem, stabilise an acutely ill patient, and/or to confirm an emergency medical evacuation is required for patient care. The project will also determine the cost savings associated with point-of-care testing preventing unnecessary emergency medical retrievals, which come at a high cost to the Northern Territory Government.
The research team found that POCT enabled more informed triaging of acutely ill patients requiring evacuation to a tertiary hospital as well as ruling out the need for evacuation for patients who could remain in the community and be stabilised safely using POCT.
The study involved, 200 patient cases. Of the 147 patients with chest pain, 126 patients were not evacuated due to on-site POCT for troponin I; from this latter group, 48 patients (38%) would have been evacuated if POCT was not available. Of 28 patients who missed dialysis sessions, 17 were evacuated, Three of seven patients (43%) identified with non-STEMI through POCT would not have been evacuated if POCT was unavailable. Of 17 patients evacuated with acute renal disease, four (24%) had initial potassium results >6.5 mmol/L; all four received calcium gluconate/resonium medication and serial POCT with decreased potassium levels at evacuation. All 10 patients evacuated with acute diarrhoea received rehydration therapy prior to evacuation.
Spaeth B.A., Shephard M.D.S., Omond R., 'Clinical Application of Point-of-Care Testing in the Remote Primary Health Care Setting', "Quality in Primary Care", 2017; 25(3): 164-175