At the Point of Care
Laboratory tests may also be performed at the actual point of care - in other words, where the patient is (at the bedside or in the GP surgery or clinic) rather than in a distant laboratory. Laboratory tests in these places are usually limited to uncomplicated tests. Tests done at the point of care tend to be time-consuming for the personnel involved and relatively expensive compared to laboratory tests, but they are more convenient for patients and provide rapid results.
Point of care testing is increasing as technological advances bring about portable devices that are easy to use and produce immediate results. Examples include blood glucose tests, blood gas monitoring systems and analysers for tests for blood clotting and to detect heart attacks.
Tests performed at the point of care must comply with standards just like those performed in central laboratories (see Laboratory Accreditation article), and proper systems of quality control should be operated. It is expected that point of care testing will continue to develop as new devices become available, in part because they may reduce delays and provide immediate information to doctors, allowing more timely medical treatment.