In today’s healthcare landscape, there is a great need for multipurpose and reliable tools that aim to improve patient quality of life while reducing manufacturing costs. Generally, tests for patient monitoring are clinic-based and trained personnel are often required. Therefore, traditional diagnosis for prevention, identification, and treatment of diseases is labour and time consuming as well as expensive. During the last decade rapid advances are already being achieved at remarkably low cost with modest investments, providing solutions for both patients and professionals in the field of diagnosis and monitoring devices. Accessible prices of final devices represent a significant advantage, particularly in the underdeveloped world, where the health domain is underfunded. Moreover, low investments in improved health have shown a significant return in reduced morbidity and mortality.
In this regard, Point-of-Care (PoC) technologies are the spearhead on this field of medical innovation. PoC can be defined as immediately actionable healthcare information outside the clinic laboratory (places like patient’s homes, on-site, etc.) in applications from diagnosis, to monitoring and therapy adjustment. In this context, PoC devices could not only improve the diagnosis and control of high prevalence diseases, but also reach difficult scenarios where clinics are often many miles away from villages, where there is an absence / scarcity of laboratory facilities and trained staff, or where there are hostile environmental conditions. These scenarios are usually associated with under-developed or developing countries, but the recent pandemic of COVID-19 have highlighted the necessity of such tools in full developed countries. PoC devices and technologies are the main tool to develop an interconnected net between patients and healthcare providers to provide a fully fledge and functional domiciliary hospitalization, easing the stress on public health services and resources.
Furthermore, PoC technologies are a useful tool in the environmental field. The air and water pollutants are affecting the health of living beings (humans, animals, and plants), agriculture, fisheries, and physical infrastructures. Water pollution is present in all these fields, where bacteriological and chemical contamination is contained in the drinking water, oceans, lakes and food. In the past years, it has become a global concern of associations such the U.S. and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Water Resource Association (AWRA), the World Water Council, the European Environment Commission, and other organizations. In response of the actual necessities, the research in systems designed to detect and monitor pollutants is exponentially increased.
Summarizing, PoC devices must be able to approximate laboratory-based testing in less time, delocalized, being handled by non-qualified personnel and with a lower cost in the fabrication process. Current laboratory methods are envisaged of being replaced by PoC technologies, so PoC testing promotes a shift away from traditional diagnostic tests in the clinical laboratory setting to near-patient settings, providing physicians with timely diagnostic information so as to make informed decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment. This should be a powerful incentive for commercial efforts to move toward true global health solutions.
Author Dr.Jaime Punter