Point-of-care (POC) tests have the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs by producing quick, onsite results, yet primary care clinicians have not widely adopted these tests in many high-income settings. A new paper in BMJ Open​ reveals that doctors are interested in making greater use of POC testing methods when diagnosing patients—but don’t always have access to the tests they want to use.

According to the authors, this is the first international survey to examine use of and interest in POC tests among primary care clinicians. The results reflect the responses from 2,770 doctors from Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The survey asked participants to identify health conditions in which a POC test would be useful in making diagnostic decisions. According to the results, acute conditions such as infections and acute cardiac disease were among the most commonly listed, while some chronic conditions such as anemia and diabetes also topped the list.

The researchers also provided the clinicians with a list of 50 POC tests, then asked respondents which tests they currently used and how often they used them, and which tests they might want to try in the future. According to the survey results, “blood glucose, urine pregnancy test, and urine leucocytes or nitrite were the most frequently used POC tests in the five countries, all being used by more than 80% of the respondents.” However, these tests only partially overlap with the conditions for which clinicians would like POC tests to help them make diagnoses.

Additionally, desired use of POC tests was actually higher than what clinicians were reportedly using, indicating a demand for these types of tests. “Overall, 19 tests were desired by at least 50% of respondents in at least one country, while only 8 tests were actually used by at least 50% of respondents in at least one country,” the survey stated.

These results suggest that a greater range of POC tests needs to be made more widely available to primary care clinicians to help them make immediate clinical decisions.

Read the study online.