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Long-sought point-of-care testing by GPs ‘inevitable’: Health Minister


Doug Hendrie


12/10/2018 10:39:27 AM

The goal of timely point-of-care testing in general practice is within reach after Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt described the step as ‘inevitable’ at GP18.

The RACGP believes that evidence-based point-of-care testing ‘should be accessible via general practice through Medicare’.
The RACGP believes that evidence-based point-of-care testing ‘should be accessible via general practice through Medicare’.

The RACGP has long pushed for the ability to use fast pathology tests in general practices to speed up diagnosis.
 
Speaking at GP18, the RACGP’s annual general practice conference on the Gold Coast, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the Federal Government recognises that the implementation of point-of-care testing is unavoidable.
 
‘Pathology companies have to recognise this is inevitable. This is coming down the track,’ he said.
 
This acknowledgement came as the RACGP released the fifth edition of its Standards for point-of-care testing.
 
The college believes that evidence-based point-of-care testing ‘should be accessible via general practice through Medicare and unnecessary regulatory barriers to its adoption in general practice should be removed’.
 
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that developing technology allows GPs to better respond to patient needs.
 
‘Providing a range of pathology tests within general practice will support improved and informed decision making, enhance timely access to pathology, improve patient convenience, and support efficiency in health service delivery,’ he said.
 
‘We know this is a great opportunity to improve our healthcare, and that is why we continue to develop and expand on our standards, which are evidence-based and inform best practice.
 
‘It is incredibly promising to see general practice accessibility be seriously looked at by the Australian Government.’
 
Dr Nespolon lauded the RACGP’s new standards in his opening speech to the conference.
 
‘Through developing the Standards for point-of-care testing, the RACGP is laying the foundation for a fit-for-purpose accreditation framework for point-of-care testing in general practices, and will continue to advocate to secure funding,’ he said.
 
An influential 2009 Australian randomised controlled trial of point-of-care testing in general practice found that, broadly, the effectiveness is comparable to or better than pathology testing for many common tests, such as HbA1c, urine albumin, albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR), total cholesterol and triglycerides, but not for international normalised ration or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. 
 
One key challenge has been cost, with the 2009 trial finding testing in central laboratories to be cheaper than point-of-care testing.
 
But a team of researchers writing in Australian Family Physician in 2015 pointed out that a major reason for the increased cost was the resources required to train and monitor the point-of-care testing operators, many in remote locations.



department of health pathology point-of-care testing standards





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