Point-of-care testing (PoCT) devices: medical and human progress

Point-of-care (PoC) testing devices: not just for COVID!
Find out more about their applications and their medical, economic and human benefits.

History and context of point-of-care (PoC) testing

The pandemic has at least had the merit of putting the spotlight on point-of-care testing (PoCT). The famous COVID tests are perfect illustrations of this.

Point-of-care testing (PoCT) (illustration)

It all began in the '70s

Although it may seem as if the emergence of these devices is a recent phenomenon, in the early 70’s, we were able to benefit from the arrival of Dextrometer® glucometers, which were already based on the microfluidic principle. A single drop of blood was all that was needed to obtain an accurate result, and reduce laboratory queues!

Between the 1980s and the 2000s, the number of such devices multiplied, making it easy and intuitive to measure cholesterol levels, monitor patients on anticoagulants and track the progress of various vital parameters…

The pace has picked up since the 2000s

Today, performance is seen in the quantity of fluid required for testing – lower than in the past – and in real-time data transmission. An example? Glucose analyzers implanted under the skin, which transmit glucose levels to the care team on a regular basis via a smartphone.

Proof of the popularity of these devices? A study by Data Bridge Market Research predicts that the market for point-of-care testing devices, estimated at $32.93 billion in 2022, will reach $73.19 billion by 2030. This represents an average annual growth rate of 10.50% over the forecast period. It’s a great source of inspiration for future developments!

The COVID effect

There was a before and an after to COVID. While point-of-care testing devices enjoyed a good reputation before 2020, COVID has generated extraordinary demand, with healthcare professionals and politicians demanding tests that can be used in doctors’ surgeries, schools, at home…

The problem? Test thousands or even millions of individuals in record time, to control the spread of infection. This kind of pressure on laboratories and research groups has made it possible to place these devices at the top of the priority list, and therefore to dedicate actions and research funds to perfecting them. At the end of the line? Obtaining affordable, high-performance, early diagnosis tests, and better patient follow-up.

The range of possibilities for point-of-care testing (PoCT) devices

Their applications

It’s impossible to restrict the field of application of these devices to COVID tests alone, since they can be used for a wide variety of measurements:

  • Screening for viral infections such as influenza, group B streptococcus, influenza, mononucleosis and various sexually transmitted infections.
  • Measurement of blood glucose levels, essential in the management of diabetes and other medical conditions.
  • Urine tests, to collect various urinary parameters such as pH, proteins, glucose and ketone bodies.

What do they all have in common? The ability to provide responsive service and, by extension, diagnosis and treatment for the patient, directly at the point of care.

Their advantages

Lab-on-a-chip functions illustration
Lab-on-a-chip functions

In addition to being fast and able to operate in any location, these devices..:

  • Near-perfect specificity (99%), eliminating the risk of false negatives;
  • Quickly guide nursing staff to the decision best suited to the pathology detected;
  • Improve the management of urgent treatments such as high blood sugar, dense urine, opiate or other drug use…;
  • Reduce the time needed for all stages of medical diagnosis, from the appearance of the first symptoms to prescription;
  • Lighten the workload of analysis laboratories;
  • Reduce healthcare system costs;
  • Enhance human communication. Whether through less overcrowded laboratories or the possibility of staying with patients to give them their test results, we are seeing improved exchanges between patients and medical staff. And what could be better than to be able to explain the significance of a live test result, whether positive or negative?

And on the medical front:

  • Reduce antibiotic resistance through early identification of bacterial pathology.
  • Reduce cardiovascular disease through preventive action.
  • Restrict the spread of infectious diseases.

Their limits

A number of areas for improvement are regularly highlighted – notably by the World Health Organization – to enable the equitable development of point-of-care testing devices. We’re talking here:

  • Reliable and easy to use, for use at home;
  • Reduced costs for equitable diagnosis and treatment, especially in a pandemic context;
  • Automation to reduce the number of trips to and from hospital;
  • Secure reading by a professional for certain types of test, to ensure accurate interpretation;
  • Clearly defined use to optimize test quality (especially if the test is performed at home).

Meeting these challenges does not prevent point-of-care testing devices from continuing to undergo constant development. Whether it’s their coupling to connected devices, their increased reliability, their miniaturization or the ever more advanced diagnosis of infectious diseases, they’re definitely not out of the news yet.

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