Point-of-care product purchases on the consistent rise

The market for point-of-care (POC) testing products -- such as pregnancy tests and glucose monitoring devices -- is currently growing at a rate of 6 percent per year, said a new report from healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information.

In its study, "The World Market for Point of Care (POC) Diagnostics," Kalorama noted that the growth in the $16.7 billion industry is higher than expected and is being driven mainly by the prevalence of chronic diseases and globalization of infectious diseases.

Point of care is a broad term used to describe in vitro diagnostic tests used by either patients themselves or in physicians' offices, clinics and other patient care sites. Unlike tests sent to a central lab, POC tests provide rapid results that can immediately influence treatment decisions.

"It remains one of the best testing sectors for proving the idea that test usage can reduce costs since POC tests can help determine treatment and improve patient outcomes or treatment costs," said Bruce Carlson, Kalorama's publisher. "This combined with demographic factors such as the increasing number of patients diagnosed with diabetes  -  glucose testing is the largest segment of the POC market  -  are fueling growth in POC testing."

According to Carlson, several other factors are also driving growth.

 "Healthcare has also changed to better accommodate these tests," he said. "We've seen growth in specialty clinics, retail clinics and other decentralized locations for patient care. Economic factors are driving the need to reduce the length of patient stays in hospitals, reduce backlog in areas such as emergency departments as patients wait for test results, etc. Also, there's a problem unique to central labs  -  a shortage of qualified medical technologists to work in centralized laboratories. All these factors continue to drive POC innovation, healthcare organization and investor interest."

Although the future looks bright for the POC market, Carlson notes a few possible pitfalls, including staff training and the higher cost of POC tests.

"At a central lab, the level of training of personnel performing the POC test will usually be better," said Carlson. "Cost is also a factor that could limit growth. The cost of POC tests is often higher than the cost of the same test performed in a central laboratory."

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