Contributing lab leader: Prof. Damien Gruson
Healthcare practitioners and patients stand to benefit from the emergence of Point of Care Testing (POCT) and Smart Labs following the recent burst in digital technologies, the improved integration of data and services as well as advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Prof. Dr. Damien Gruson from the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc in Belgium, said in a presentation at this year’s EuroMedLab Congress.
POCT and Smart Labs look set to play an increasingly important role in supporting the prevention, monitoring, and management of disease as they can provide real-time decision-making support thanks to new technologies that are making devices and systems more connected, Prof. Dr.Gruson said.
There has been a growth in Smart Labs in recent years as new technology has meant that devices, software systems, processes, and databases can be networked with each other to make workflows, resource management, and collaboration easier, safer, and more efficient.1
“Smart labs are a reality because of the integration of automated solutions, the integration of data, intelligent workflows, proactive feedback to users, and the integration of outside services, including POCT,” Prof. Dr. Gruson stated, adding these developments were resulting in efficiencies across the entire care continuum and in some cases better outcomes.
The insights generated by these new point of care (POC) technologies and integrated data sources can result in physicians being prompted to “use the right test at the right time” – a feature that is especially important for conditions like Atrial Fibrillation (AF), Prof. Dr. Gruson said.
Today the Age/Biomarkers/Clinical History or ABC Score is one algorithm that is used to predict bleeding in a patient with AF.2 The three biomarkers are Growth Differentiation Factor-15, high-sensitivity cardiac Troponin T, and hemoglobin. Going forward, such tools could be combined with more connected devices and technologies, added Prof. Dr. Gruson.
“The connectivity of these devices, the flexibility, the interoperability is not a dream, it's becoming a reality. More and more, we have updated software that means we can put and access key data on the cloud in real time. As specialists in laboratory medicine, we can advise and secure the high-quality use of this technology and also advise physicians to perform some biomarker testing in the central lab to stratify the patients at risk of complications caused by AF,” he said.
An uptick in teleconsultations, increased data sharing, progress in the area of AI and infrastructure improvements have made it easier for patients and clinicians to connect and communicate with each other outside of the clinic, enabling more effective remote monitoring of chronic diseases. And these tools, along with updated guidelines, should also be deployed to screen people with conditions like diabetes or hypertension to determine whether they are at risk of developing heart failure, Prof. Dr. Gruson recommended.
“By focusing more on prevention, we will be more sustainable,” Prof. Dr. Gruson said. “The number of people at risk of AF, for example, will double by 2050 and we will need to deal with the potential complications of stroke and cardiovascular adverse events. It’s a global burden,” he stated.
Prof. Dr. Gruson also believes more mobile technologies could empower patients and care providers as they will be able to access information and insights more easily, pointing to recent progress made with mobile phone apps in the area of diabetes.
Rapid diagnostic tools could increasingly be used by General Practitioners (GP) as they look for better ways to assess the risk factors of their patients and work with other specialties to triage patients more effectively, Prof. Dr. Gruson advised, potentially alleviating some of the pressure on hospitals as more care is delivered in the community.
“Because of this smart environment, connectivity with healthcare providers is improved. This means you will be able to connect with your GP and your caregivers once you have been diagnosed (with AF) and if you are at risk,” Prof. Dr. Gruson advised. “When we combine this with portable devices that can detect abnormalities in a person’s heart rhythm when they are placed on the thorax, people will have the information they need to know whether they are at risk of AF or not,” he said.
It’s crucial that all stakeholders work together to co-create, validate, and deploy new POCT mobile devices. Designing devices that meet the needs of all players will result in the development of products that can detect abnormalities more swiftly, ensuring clinicians and patients have more time to take action, Prof. Dr. Gruson said.
Despite the significant progress that has been made since the pandemic, it is clear to Prof. Dr. Gruson that certain challenges must still be overcome, including the accessibility of the technology, remaining gaps in the interoperability of systems as well as how the data are structured. Question marks still remain over who will be funding these developments, meanwhile, the business models and reimbursement paths will also vary from country to country.
Regardless of these obstacles, the momentum around digital healthcare is strong and all stakeholders have an obligation to ensure these new ecosystems meet the highest standards in terms of quality and value, Prof. Dr. Gruson said.
If you want to hear more from Prof. Dr. Damien Gruson and how digital point of care technologies can help improve connectivity, then click here to register to watch his full presentation from EuroMedLab 2023.