The impact of digital technologies on point-of-care diagnostics in resource-limited settings.

18 Apr 2018
Gous N, Boeras DI, Cheng B, Takle J, Cunningham B, Peeling RW.

Simple, rapid tests that can be used at the point-of-care (POC) can improve access to diagnostic services and overall patient management in resource-limited settings where laboratory infrastructure is limited. Implementation of POC tests places tremendous strain on already fragile health systems as the demand for training, supply management and quality assurance are amplified. Digital health has a major role to play in ensuring effective delivery and management of POC testing services. Area covered: The ability to digitise laboratory and POC platforms, including lateral flow rapid diagnostic test results, can standardize the interpretation of results and allows data to be linked to proficiency testing to ensure testing quality, reducing interpretation and transcription errors. Remote monitoring of POC instrument functionality and utilization through connectivity, allows programs to optimize instrument placement, algorithm adoption and supply management. Alerts can be built into the system to raise alarm at unusual trends such as outbreaks. Expert commentary: Digital technology has had a powerful impact on POC testing in resource limited settings. Technology, markets, and medical devices have matured to enable connected diagnostics to become a useful tool for epidemiology, patient care and tracking, research, and antimicrobial resistance and outbreak surveillance. However, to unlock this potential, digital tools must first add value at the point of patient care. The global health community need to propose models for protecting intellectual property to foster innovation and for safeguarding data confidentiality.

Digital technology; connected diagnostic system; data governance; health system strengthening; quality assurance