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Outside the Lab Point of care testing, Quality assurance and quality control, Regulation and standards, Guidelines and recommendations

A Question of Quality

Point-of-care-testing (POCT) promises a simple, accessible, cost-effective alternative to laboratory testing. But many resource-limited areas lack guidelines for quality assurance – so how can we ensure that POCT everywhere conforms to the same standards? This International Pathology Day, we posed this question to a panel of experts…

Charles van Heyningen, Former International Advisor at the Royal College of Pathologists

POCTs need to be as user-friendly as possible, but complex enough to address quality issues. New technologies often have internal quality control systems built in, and even some of the simple bedside or self-monitoring tests allow you to run quality checks more readily than ever, removing the need for complex laboratory backup systems.

Tahir Pillay, Professor & Chair in the Department of Chemical Pathology and Head of Pathology at the University of Pretoria

Cost and complexity are the main barriers to accessibility. Many UK hospitals have established POCT committees and coordinators; laboratories act as a central point for deployment and quality assurance, with a fixed schedule of auditing and incident recording to maintain quality. Low-resource countries have not yet reached this level of best practice.

Lieutenant Emma Hutley, Defence Medical Services, Joint Hospital Group South East

It’s important to determine exactly what you’re asking of the test – how is it going to change the management of the patient or outbreak? How it will inform patient flow and management? Many POCTs use the ASSURED criteria: availability, sensitivity, specificity, user-friendliness, robust, reliable, equipment-free, and deliverable.

Wale Atoyebi, Consultant Hematologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Resource-limited countries don’t have the infrastructure to undertake processes that are established in developed countries. The main concern is the audit trail and who is managing the process. The simplicity of POCTs can sometimes mean that people grow lax in their procedures – so we must be vigilant.

Want to hear more? Watch the entire panel discussion on demand here.

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About the Author
Luke Turner

While completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I soon discovered that my passion and strength was for writing about science rather than working in the lab. My master’s degree in Science Communication allowed me to develop my science writing skills and I was lucky enough to come to Texere Publishing straight from University. Here I am given the opportunity to write about cutting edge research and engage with leading scientists, while also being part of a fantastic team!

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