Point-of-care testing by paramedics using a portable laboratory: an evaluation

Use of point-of-care testing (POCT) equipment by paramedics for triage may reduce unnecessary attendance in emergency departments and inconvenience to patients. A hospital pathology service and an ambulance trust wanted a system for safe and effective use of diagnostic devices by paramedics at the patient bedside. A suite of POCT devices to perform an expanded repertoire of pathology tests was provided, along with technology for electronic data capture, temperature control and monitoring, in a specially designed kit bag—the Labkit. Following a proof-of-concept phase, three Labkit bags were deployed as a pilot in rapid response vehicles and used by specialist paramedics in urgent and emergency care who had been trained in their use. The paramedics used the bag in 25% of patient interactions, typically three times every 24 hours. Having POCT results available at the time of paramedic assessment reduced conveyance to the emergency department by 21%. There was also a 10% rise in admission of patients where pathology results indicated problems that required urgent treatment which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Overall, 31% of conveyance decisions were changed as a direct consequence of the Labkit results. Patients reported high levels of satisfaction, and paramedics said it added value in 97% of cases where it was used to support decision-making. Reliable, quality-assured POCT by paramedics has the potential to improve efficiency in the healthcare system and benefit patients.

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