National Institutes of Health
Fact Sheet Point-of-Care Diagnostic Testing
Point-of-care testing allows patient diagnoses in the physician’s office, an ambulance, the home, the field, or in the
hospital. The results of care are timely, and allow rapid treatment to the patient. Empowering clinicians to make decisions
at the “point-of-care” has the potential to significantly impact health care delivery and to address the challenges of health
disparities. The success of a potential shift from curative medicine, to predictive, personalized, and preemptive medicine
could rely on the development of portable diagnostic and monitoring devices for point-of-care testing.
• In the earliest days of medicine, health care was • Biosensors are used clinically for toxicology and
similar to point-of-care in that it was delivered in the drug screens, measurement of blood cells and blood
patient’s home through physician house visits. coagulations, bedside diagnosis of heart disease
through detection of cardiac markers in the blood,
• As medical discoveries were made and new and glucose self-testing.
technologies developed, care then shifted to
specialized hospitals with an emphasis on curative • Urinary tract infections are a serious health problem
medicine. affecting millions of people each year. They result
in more than 8 million office visits and over a
• Large centralized laboratories were established, with million hospitalizations each year. The total cost for
cost-savings realized through the development of treatment reaches into the billions of dollars. A
automated systems for analysis of patient samples. large share of that expense comes from waiting 48
• Point-of-care devices were used on a limited basis in hours for a urine sample to be cultured in the lab.
the hospital for rapid analysis in intensive care units • NIH-supported researchers developed a sensor that
and for simple home testing, such as with pregnancy can identify, in 30 minutes, from a single drop of
test kits. urine, the specific bacteria responsible for an
individual’s urinary tract infection. This quick
Today detection allows the patient to leave the physician’s
• Point-of-care testing gives immediate results as office or clinic with a prescription specific for their
samples do not have to be shipped off-site to a infection to begin immediate treatment.
centralized laboratory. • The detection process works at the molecular level
• The NIH supports the development of sensor and – when the genetic target from the bacteria is
microsystem technologies for point-of-care testing. recognized by the probes on the sensor, an
These instruments combine multiple analytical electronic signal is generated. The signal is
functions into self-contained, portable devices that transformed by a computer chip on the unit into a
can be used by non-specialists to detect and digital readout. This sensor system is the result of
diagnose disease, and can enable the selection of collaboration between the UCLA Urology
optimal therapies through patient screening and Department and GeneFluidics, Inc. GeneFluidics
monitoring of a patient’s response to a chosen expects to have a system ready for FDA approval in
treatment. about 2 years.
• Sensor technologies enable the rapid analysis of
blood samples for several critical care assays,
including blood chemistry, electrolytes, blood
gases, and hematology.
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• With the development of miniaturized devices and • Low-cost diagnostic imaging devices can be used at
wireless communication, the way in which doctors the point-of-patient care for disadvantaged and
care for patients will change dramatically and the under-served populations in the U.S. as well as in
role patients take in their own health care will the developing world. The development of low-cost
increase. Health care will become more imaging devices could make affordable diagnostic
personalized through tailoring of interventions to imaging more widely available, particularly in
individual patients. remote or rural communities and small hospitals
that do not have ready access to these technologies.
• The next decade will bring a new realm of precision
and efficiency to the way information is transmitted • A new, low-cost ultrasound device could be used to
and interpreted and thus the way medicine is diagnose complication of pregnancy, hemorrhage
practiced. In the future, clinicans may be able to associated with trauma, renal obstructions, and
improve the regulation of diet in infants with inborn other conditions.
errors of metabolism through bedside monitoring.
• A new method using an optical probe for cervical
Currently, management of such diseases requires
cancer detection and treatment could significantly
complex testing in a hospital setting. However,
lower the mortality rate worldwide. Combining a
researchers are developing a chemical sensor, using
small optical imaging device with a treatment
a small sample of blood from a fingerstick, that
modality could provide both diagnosis and
changes color in response to metabolic
treatment of cervical cancer at the same time.
irregularities. When such abnormalities are found,
the diet of the infant can be adjusted immediately to
prevent adverse effects such as mental retardation.
For additional information contact: Brenda Korte,
Ph.D. – email@example.com 301-451-4778.
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