The missing link in point of care diagnostics

Nick Collier highlights the need for innovation in sample collection, to overcome key human factors challenges, and to ultimately improve point of care diagnostics.

Early diagnosis plays a key role in the management of infectious disease, and access to rapid, straightforward, cost-effective testing is central to this capability. Point of Care (PoC) diagnostic devices are widely held as a key enabler. They are a focal point of innovation and with compound annual growth of 10.7%, the PoC diagnostics market is predicted to reach $75.5 billion by 2027.1

This would seem to bode well for improved management of the world’s most deadly and devastating person-to-person infectious diseases, tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, and viral hepatitis. The spread of other bacterial, viral, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) could also be controlled more effectively with better access to PoC diagnosis. Low- and middle-income countries, where communicable diseases are a leading cause of death and disability,2 could see enormous benefit from this.

However, an important aspect of successful PoC diagnosis is often overlooked during innovation. Namely, the collection of samples. Factors such as discomfort, embarrassment, and inconvenience can make patients reluctant to provide a specimen for testing. Furthermore, it can be difficult to obtain samples of sufficient quality for reliable diagnosis in PoC settings. Improving sample collection for PoC diagnostics could be game-changing for infection prevention. It could also pave the way for further decentralisation, and increased accessibility, of diagnosis at point of need, in community, workplace, or home settings. 

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