Although the first point of care medical device was developed in the early 1970s, it wasn’t until the following decade of the ‘80s that the term “point of care” (PoC) came into use.
That was when these lighter, highly portable and effective medical devices became a distinct field of medical research and product development.
Point of Care Defined
Point of care medical devices or systems are a technology used mostly for diagnostic purposes (such as a blood test) and are operated close to or near the patient. They can be used in a hospital setting, a clinic, ambulances or, in many cases, at the home of the patient.
Today, point of care technology is a burgeoning sector of the medical industry and development of new systems has been robust over the past decade.
Let’s take a look at some of the top point of care medical devices populating the medical market ecosystem right now.
In Vitro Diagnostics
Called IVD for short, In Vitro Diagnostics are instruments for taking and testing samples of things like blood and other biological tissues. They are used to detect diseases or to get a reading on the overall health of an individual. The data they provide is extremely useful to treat, present or even cure a disease.
A notable example of an IVD is a personal glucose meter (PGM) used widely by diabetics. This may have been the first point of care device developed in the early 1970s.
Cardiology Diagnostic Devices
Not so long ago, taking blood samples to test for cardiac diseases was strictly the realm of a clinical setting where technicians took blood samples from patients, and the samples were then sent over to specialized labs for testing.
Today, the same testing can be done with point of care technologies. For example, now EMT can use PoC in an ambulance setting for rapid assessment to test for things like cardiac troponin, an important biomarker of myocardial injury. This, in turn, helps manage patients presenting symptoms. Cardiac PoC allows for rapid assessment and triage of a patient who may be undergoing health emergencies.
Diagnostics Imaging Devices
Advances in light-emitting diode (LED) along with high-resolution, handheld image sensors has brought what medical technician call “microscopy” into the field, ambulance and even the homes of patients. They are not only cheaper than lab-based platforms for microscopy, but they are also less expensive.
One example of fluorescence microscopy is that which can rapidly diagnose the sensitivity of Myobacterium turberculosis. LED-based fluorescence microscopes available on the market can be used in low-resource settings. This includes stand-alone fluorescent microscopes.
Several devices that perform critical types of eye examinations are now being used in the field. For example, a frequent metric ophthalmologists look at is a quantitative measurement of tear osmolarity. The latter is a measure of the salt content of tears. High salt content is called hyperosmolarity and indicates dry eye syndrome or ocular surface disease.
The most frequently used method for diagnosis is a Schirmer Test which involves inserting a strip through the nasal passage into the brain’s lower fornix. Once a clinical setting-only procedure, this can now be done using point of care.
One of the main advances in the field of orthopedics is the development of point of care ultrasound technology. It is being successfully used to diagnose a range of conditions, including ligament injuries, tendon ruptures, tendonitis, bursal pathologies, vascular injuries, detecting foreign bodies, infections, necrosis and much more.
Working with children in a medical setting presents unique challenges. Elements require increased ease of use of equipment, lightness, less invasive, lower sample requirements, short visits and rapid results.
Point of care devices are bringing all new capabilities for pediatricians as they were with their youthful patients. Another advantage is that PoC allows parents to stay with their child at all times during a diagnostic evaluation.
A Rapidly Advancing Sector
As of 2023, the sky seems the limit for point of care device technology development. Other examples of devices now in widespread use include PoC systems for kidney dialysis, endoscopy, wound care devices, respiratory care, anesthesia and more.
PoC promises to change the way patients receive care across a range of factors, including lower costs, better health outcomes, much greater convenience and far less invasive testing procedures.