Looking to extend care at the pointy end

Professor Mark Shephard

Extending on-site medical testing could lead to major health benefits for Australia’s rural and remote residents and also create substantial savings for the country’s health system.

A $95,000 Flinders University study funded by the Emergency Medicine Foundation will determine the patient benefit and cost savings of point-of-care testing (POCT) that enables people to be tested and to receive their diagnosis locally.

With each remote area aerial evacuation costing thousands of dollars, on-the-spot testing offers the potential for significant savings each year.

Professor Mark Shephard, Director of the University’s International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing, says the research has the potential to lead to more point-of-care testing services in rural and remote communities.

Access to portable pathology testing means that doctors are able to rule out potential acute problems, stabilise patients in their own communities or confirm when emergency evacuations were required.

The research, led by Professor Shephard, will be conducted in six remote health centres in the Northern Territory and will specifically investigate patients with acute chest pain, acute diarrhoea and acute renal failure.

“In simple terms, this research will determine whether POCT enables more people to be diagnosed and treated in their remote communities, and whether it reduces the need for unnecessary and expensive medical retrievals,” Professor Shephard said.

“Hundreds of rural and remote Australians are medically evacuated to city hospitals each year at a significant cost to the health system.”

Services currently run by the International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing include QAAMS (Quality Assurance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Services), a national service funded by the Federal Government that provides POCT for diabetes management and treatment at more than 170 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical services.

The philanthropic Emergency Medical Foundation was set up in 2013 to support research-driven innovation and initiatives that improve the outcomes for emergency medicine patients in Australia and beyond.

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