Last November, clinicians from across Latin America gathered in São Paulo, Brazil, for the first Latin American Point-of-Care Day, a conference to share case studies and best practices in POCT and encourage its uptake throughout the region.
The one-day meeting included 20 15-minute-lectures from respected KOL from across the Americas. More than 180 attendees representing a wide range of medical specialties attended and heard from renowned experts about both barriers and opportunities regarding the integration of POCT into health care systems.
Several conference panelists discussed the value of POCT for HIV and other infectious diseases. Miriam Franchini, a laboratory diagnostics specialist and consultant to the Brazilian Ministry of Health’s Department of STDs and AIDS, noted that today’s HIV rapid diagnostics are excellent in quality and that more than 8.5 million HIV tests were distributed for use in Brazil in 2015 alone. Thanks to this significant screening initiative, 255,000 people were diagnosed with HIV who may have otherwise remained undiagnosed. Ms. Franchini noted, however, that far too many HIV-positive Brazilians remain unaware of their infection, highlighting the urgent need for widespread rapid HIV testing in the country.
Antimicrobial resistance was another topic of concern at the conference. Dr. Adelino de Melo Freire Jr., an infectious disease specialist and head of the Hospital Infection Committee of the Felício Rocho Hospital in Brazil, emphasized the importance of rapid tests in helping providers avoid prescribing unnecessary antibiotics and to narrow the spectrum of the antibiotics that are used. He stated that his hospital uses toxin and antigen tests to confirm suspected cases of Clostridium difficile infection, so that providers can quickly begin treatment and trigger hospital infection control procedures in cases of positive results.
Management of chronic diseases through rapid, point-of-case monitoring devices also generated discussion at the event. Dr. Jorge Espinoza, a specialist in Endocrinology and Human Reproductive Biology and former president of the Mexican Diabetes Federation, stated that degenerative chronic diseases such as diabetes are extremely prevalent in Mexico and are associated with obesity, high blood pressure and reduced life expectancy. Espinoza praised point-of-care hemoglobin A1c tests for their utility in providing physicians with real time assessments of their patients’ diabetes control, so that they can adjust treatment as needed.
Dr. Paula Távora, a pathologist and member of the Commission for Remote Laboratory Tests of the Brazilian Society of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (and its former president), discussed her clinic’s successful implementation of rapid POCT in pharmacies in response to the 2015 dengue epidemic in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Patients suspected of having dengue were referred to the clinic for rapid screening and those who tested positive were either hospitalized or, in less severe cases, given treatment to take at home, thereby reducing the burden on the emergency department.
Carlos Ballarati, founder of a startup providing affordable online medical consultations, discussed economic and clinical efficiency benefits of POCT, stating that, “With the use of point-of-care testing in a surgical center, it is possible to make medical decisions that are reflected in a better and faster recovery by the patient. Consequently, there is also a decrease in the time patients spend in hospital. Because of this, simply by using point-of-care tests, it is possible to increase bed turnover, thus increasing bed capacity without necessarily investing in infrastructure.”
Overall, the event, which was supported by Alere, exceeded expectations in terms of showcasing the benefits and relevance of POCT in the region, and setting the stage for greater uptake of POCT in the future. The Latin American Point-of Care Day became on its first edition the forum of choice to gather POC community on a yearly basis, with a second meeting planned in Colombia in October 2017.
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