Recently, the scientific community has become more focused on point-of-care (POC) diagnostics. This technology had been available before in certain products for specific uses, like at-home pregnancy tests or devices to check insulin levels. The purpose of POC devices is to provide immediate results that can potentially help detect or treat a medical issue. Most of these devices are still in a fledgling stage, but developers are working on technology that can actually be used.
How will it be used?
After they’re developed, POC technologies will be utilized in general practitioner’s offices and private care homes to diagnose patients immediately and provide treatment, instead of requiring a visit to a hospital or special doctor. Access to instant results can potentially save lives and lower costs for long-term medical care, since disease and medical problems would be detected earlier.
The top categories where research is currently being conducted for the possibility of POC technologies being used: neurology, infectious diseases, cardiology, ophthalmology, and oncology. It appears as though technologies in all areas will be able to be used outside of a traditional care facility, except for oncology. For oncology, the devices would be used in the patient’s primary care physician’s office, but not their own home. On the opposite end of the spectrum is ophthalmology, which will provide patients with multiple devices to diagnose any symptoms they may possess and assist in monitoring common health concerns, like cataracts or glaucoma.
What to expect
While significant research is going into POC technologies, it’ll likely still be a significant amount of time before we see the technology reach the consumer market. Unlike wearable personal fitness devices, a huge demand in the consumer market for personal medical devices is not present. Various causes could be behind this trend, like the age range of the intended audience (older and not as accustomed to using personal technology) or medical devices aren’t seen as desirable tech as opposed to a smartphone or workout tracker.
There will also be an unequal amount of POC devices for different fields of medicine. For example, there will likely be a focus on in vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices, with many companies focusing on developing that technology to be used in the home. Developers of POC technologies are going to pay attention and work on the areas where it seems like the demand and profit is highest.
Finally, it might be a little while before POC devices are as widespread as researchers anticipate. This delay occurs because the health insurance industry wants to see properly conducted research that conclusively shows money will be saved in the long run through developing these devices. Such technology is fairly expensive, though researchers believe that the long-term benefits, such as reduced medical visits and treatments because of self-monitoring and early detection, outweigh the initial cost.