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Rural centre deploys point-of-care lab tests

NEWBURY, Ont. – Four Counties Health Services (FCHS) is the pilot site for the Thames Valley Hospital Partnership (TVHP) point-of-care lab testing.

Four Counties Health Services is a primary care facility providing emergency care, diagnostic services, and rehabilitation. Serving approximately 23,000 residents, it is located in the village of Newbury, at the intersection of Lambton, Kent, Middlesex and Elgin Counties. IT is about 40 minutes west of London.

“Point-of-care is the gold standard for all critical areas requiring immediate results,” says Thea Turpin, Lab Manager for Middlesex Hospital Alliance’s Laboratories. “Other small hospitals are looking at this system to improve critical care access to common lab tests and Four Counties is the first – and the pilot site – for our regional partnership.”

Point-of-care testing allows nurses or other healthcare professionals to test blood samples immediately using a new portable device. Administrative and medical staff from Middlesex Hospital Alliance saw the system at work firsthand last year on a site visit to the Quinte Health Care North Hastings site in Bancroft, Ont., where point-of-care was recently implemented.

Instead of having a fully staffed lab on site, Bancroft’s point-of-care equipment automates many common blood tests. ER nurses are trained to take patient samples and operate the equipment. And, results are available in an average of 10 minutes. Costs have been reduced and the quality of patient care improved.

With 10 inpatient beds and 14,000 ER visits each year, the Bancroft site is very similar to, and faces some of the same challenges, as FCHS.

At Four Counties, all emergency department blood work will be point-of-care and urgent inpatient testing will also use the system. “Anywhere that time is important, where immediate results are required to assist urgent diagnosis, this system will be a benefit,” Turpin says.

Additionally, the system is comprehensive. Nurses will have new chips imbedded in their ID badges, so that when they test a blood sample, they will also scan their own badge and the patient’s ID bar code bracelet. In this way, when the point-of-care device prints out blood test results it indicates the patient information, such as doctor’s name and patient’s age, the nurse who administered the test, and the results, all on one report, Turpin explains.

This new standard is a state-of-the-art system and will have a positive impact on patient care. “This system is a benefit to patient safety also because the risk of error is decreased,” Turpin says. “When testing is done immediately and at the point of care, there are fewer opportunities for error, no waiting for lab results and follow-up phone calls. It is very efficient.”

The system is also cost effective. Small hospitals such as Four Counties and Bancroft don’t require a full lab system for the small number of routine tests that they do. This way, tests can be performed on site, without carrying the costs of a full lab system.

Training staff for point-of-care testing took place during August and the system is now being used at the Four Counties Health Services emergency department.