Point of Care Testing (POCT) has become an increasingly important component of diagnostics and a growing area for Sonic Healthcare UK. POCT can be defined as diagnostic testing that is performed at or near to the patient, with the result leading to a potential change in their care. The processes are undertaken by the hospital and clinical staff perform the testing.

POCT Operations Manager, Chris Sweetman-Wright, explains more.

“Our main offer is a connected and fully governed service with over 800 medical devices across a number of hospitals. The governed service means we are responsible for all aspects of the service - from selecting and verifying the devices, procurement of reagents, connecting devices to relevant IT systems, provision of clinical support and ensuring quality assurance of the results. Training is a big part of our overall POCT service.”

POCT devices are typically used for blood glucose and blood gases, but Sonic Healthcare UK also supports urinalysis, blood ketones, coagulation, haematology, molecular and biochemistry testing for liver function.

Many tests require just a pinprick of blood, and analysis is performed by the hospital’s clinical staff following training and assessment by Chris’ team. Patient results are sent from the device through IT systems and into the electronic patient record for consultant review.

“What sets us apart is covering multiple analytical disciplines across several hospital groups located across the length and breadth of the UK whilst working from a central location.”

Faster results for patients and clinicians

“By removing the need to transport and analyse samples in a lab, POCT takes friction out of the diagnostic system by reducing urgent lab workload and allowing results to be acted on by Consultants very quickly,” says Chris. “For example, our longest test takes 12 minutes - most are around 3-4 minutes.”

The numbers are impressive: Chris’ team looks after over 5,000 users with 12 different device types. In 2022, they delivered 11,000 training sessions across the UK.

Remarkably, it’s a relatively small team of seven that delivers all this.

The POCT team’s training expertise was put to good use when the Blood Transfusion team had to replace an entire system across 33 hospitals. Working with Head of Blood Transfusion, Anna Capps- Jenner and her team, with just four people, provided around 1,000 training sessions in a nine-week period. Having strong existing relationships with many of the hospital staff greatly helped the process, however it was quite a logistical feat nonetheless.

Looking ahead

POCT is definitely on a growth trajectory. Chris believes that molecular testing is going to become more important.

“We saw the sudden need for this during Covid and are now seeing rising Strep A levels - the same device can be used to measure both - and the need for large volumes of testing analysed quickly.”

Imaging, too, is on the rise and POCT can be deployed as part of the process, for example, to test kidney function prior to MRI or CT scans.

“Overall, there’s greater awareness of, and requirement for, POCT from hospitals who are increasingly asking for POCT capabilities.”

To highlight this, the latest lab standards ISO 15189 have been updated and now fully incorporate POCT.