AACC Releases Guidance Document on Using Point-of-Care Tests to Improve Patient Care

AACC has issued a new guidance document detailing best practices that hospitals and other healthcare institutions should follow when running a point-of-care testing program. As point-of-care tests emerge for more and more conditions—including COVID-19—the guidance emphasizes that it is essential for laboratory professionals and clinicians to collaborate on point-of-care testing programs to ensure this testing benefits patients.

Read the guidance document here: https://www.aacc.org/science-and-practice/aacc-academy-guidance/management-of-point-of-care-testing

Point-of-care tests are clinical tests that can be performed near the patient, whether that’s in a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or even at home, and they test for a variety of conditions from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to HIV. With their ability to rapidly deliver results, sometimes in mere minutes, these tests are revolutionizing healthcare by helping patients to get diagnosed and treated faster, while also making it easier for patients in remote areas to access medical testing. As transformative as these tests are, though, healthcare institutions need to exercise care in all aspects of their point-of-care testing programs to make sure they aren’t trading high quality test results for speed. Most recently, the risk of this happening was illustrated by issues with a point-of-care test that diagnoses COVID-19 in less than 15 minutes, but that was producing incorrect results because FDA initially cleared the instrument for use with an incompatible sample collection method.

AACC’s guidance document, developed by experts in the association’s Academy, advises healthcare institutions on how to best adopt and oversee point-of-care testing in order to prevent problems like this and enhance patient care. One of the guideline’s major recommendations is that point-of-care testing programs should be managed by interdisciplinary committees that include all relevant stakeholders ranging from laboratory experts to clinicians. This is especially important since, unlike with standard laboratory testing, many of the operators who perform point-of-care testing are healthcare providers who don’t have clinical laboratory training. Close collaboration between laboratory professionals and providers is therefore crucial to the success of point-of-care testing programs. Laboratory professionals contribute invaluable expertise on the benefits and limitations of the tests themselves, while clinicians can provide vital insight into the testing needs of an institute’s patient population.

This guidance also discusses the numerous factors healthcare institutions should consider when deciding whether or not to use a point-of-care test, one of the most important of which is determining if a faster test will actually impact patient outcomes. Once point-of-care testing is implemented, to make sure that it produces high quality results AACC’s guidance advises institutes to maintain ongoing training for point-of-care operators, to track specific point-of-care testing indicators that can flag areas in need of improvement, and to participate in a proficiency testing/external quality assessment program.

“Point-of-care testing is a now proven approach that can provide faster turnaround of laboratory test results,” said the guidance document authors Drs. James H. Nichols, David Alter, Yu Chen, T. Scott Isbell, Ellis Jacobs, Norman Moore, and Zahra Shajani-Yi. “As manufacturers continue to introduce new point-of-care testing technologies, point-of-care testing is increasing in popularity, breadth of testing, and in the diversity of available clinical applications. Point-of-care testing is currently routine in all hospitals and has become the standard for patient care in a variety of other healthcare settings. Therefore, this guideline … will provide guidance to the laboratory, to clinicians, and to operators in how to best adopt point-of-care testing in their setting to optimize patient care.”

Source: American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC)

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