Reducing the COVID-19 burden: diagnostic tests and the patient pathway

Tony Cambridge looks at a changing healthcare landscape as the service continues to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and considers the important role of point-of-care tests and combination testing.

New models of care are now the main topic of discussion beyond SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and test availability. It has been clear for some time that healthcare must be delivered in a different way in order to preserve the core services within the healthcare landscape. Patients need to be assessed and managed under new protocols and in new locations in order to safeguard the acute and critical services provided by secondary and tertiary organisations.

The impact of a well-governed and accessible diagnostic testing programme is well known, both in hospitals and the community. Now more than any other time, the community settings can provide the support patients need, not only in identifying health conditions at the earliest opportunity, but to manage the progression and resolution of that condition; all without visiting secondary care establishments. In those situations, where secondary and acute care is required, effective diagnostic tools must be adopted in order to optimise care delivery and protect non-infected patients and staff.

Unseen impact of a pandemic During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, diagnostics tests have been central to detecting infections, helping to quarantine and isolate those individuals, but what has been the impact on the population not infected? There have been concerns around mental health, gambling

and substance addiction, and significant backlogs for cancer services and surgery, to name a few. Socioeconomic issues have also been evident, not least business and financial implications of the pandemic, restricted freedom of movement and disruption to normal life activities. The full impact of the pandemic is now being realised. Enforced changes to someone’s day-to-day routine can have serious implications for their health and wellbeing. The disruption to education, work life, home life, local and national productivity, has impacted on the

accessibility of care. How can accessible diagnostics help to avoid or resolve these issues? A new approach is required, delivered within a new framework of diagnostic testing, standardised across countries and territories.

Power of testing

The true power of a diagnostic test is immeasurable. It is not just the knowledge of whether the patient is affected, positive/negative, normal or abnormal. It is the wider effect that we as healthcare professionals, with the right tools, can have on the impact of each of these elements. Health organisations have the opportunity to transform the way in which the healthcare system approaches the health and wellbeing of global populations. Global and national diagnostics companies, technology start- ups, distributors and adopters all have a valuable part to play in shaping the future

Community settings can provide the support patients need, not only in identifying health conditions at the earliest opportunity, but to manage the progression and resolution of that condition.


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