Point Of Care Tests (POCT) in France, what are the prospects for patient pathways?

Published on 03 July 2023 Read 25 min

Medical biology is a medical specialty that uses laboratory analysis techniques to help assess a patient’s state of health, diagnose pathologies and monitor treatment. In France, the standard procedure for a patient requiring laboratory analysis is to go to a medical biology laboratory with a prescription from his or her doctor, and wait for the results to be communicated by the laboratory, which will also inform the prescribing physician. In this article, Alcimed analyzes the rise of POCT in France as a lever for improving patient pathways, in response to COVID-19 and the pressing need to relieve overcrowding in emergency departments.

The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the trend towards more POCT in France

In France, POCT (Point Of Care Testing) is defined as a medical biology examination whose analytical phase is carried out outside medical biology laboratories. This type of examination, performed as close as possible to the patient, is becoming increasingly widespread, with the coronavirus health crisis accelerating its deployment.

The examination, accredited by COFRAC (Comité Français d’Accréditation), covers several medical specialties: microbiology, but also biochemistry, haemostasis and haematocytology. Point-of-care testing meet a wide range of public health challenges: they improve the territorial coverage of medical biology and enable more patients to be reached more quickly, thereby combating transmissible diseases and antimicrobial resistance, and improving disease prevention and screening, particularly for chronic diseases. Point-of-care testing also helps to relieve congestion in hospital emergency departments, notably by reducing the time it takes to obtain results and the number of hospital admissions.

Offshoring of medical biology much more prevalent in other countries, with a positive impact on patient pathways and the healthcare system

In many European countries and elsewhere in the world, medical biology operates differently, and outsourced medical biology is more widely deployed. In Germany and the Nordic countries, as part of the standard pathway for a biology test, the sample is taken directly at the prescribing doctor’s, thus avoiding the need for the patient to travel, and improving follow-up.
POCTs are also becoming more widespread, mainly in GP practices and hospital emergency departments, but also in pharmacies and less traditional locations such as retirement homes, ambulances, schools, prisons, etc.

In the United States, biological tests are accredited under CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amendment) regulations, and tests that are less complex in terms of use (known as “CLIA-waived”) are largely outsourced. The main benefits of POCT identified by healthcare professionals in these countries are in terms of confidence in the decisions made, the speed and targeting of treatment, and the management of care and treatment paths.

Discover how to optimize patient pathways with POCT >

What are the main obstacles to POCT in France, and what can be done?

In France, there are a number of obstacles to the development of POCTs: regulatory, with standards for the implementation of delocalized medical biology; financial, with a lack of support for the purchase of equipment and reimbursement of examinations; but also issues relating to the quality of test performance and the lack of time for potential user personnel. There are various ways of tackling these issues, drawing inspiration from countries that have already widely deployed off-site biology systems.

In conclusion, the deployment of POCT in France is all the more important given the numerous advantages of offshoring, as the COVID crisis has clearly demonstrated. While the involvement of biologists is essential, particularly in training user personnel and ensuring that POCTs are carried out correctly, there are many other avenues still to be explored, and Alcimed is here to support you! Don’t hesitate to contact our team!

About the author, 

Roxane, Senior Consultant in the Alcimed’s Innovation and Public Policy team in France

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