Medical technology has progressed an enormous amount over the past decades. Clinicians who are diagnosing and treating patients now have a significant amount of information at their disposal, particularly about vital signs such as oxygen saturation and blood pressure.
Equipment manufacturers are always looking for opportunities to develop devices that enable the maximum number of patients to receive the best care possible. Point of care equipment fulfills this brief perfectly. Portable critical care products that have the ability to provide healthcare workers with all the information they need to make an informed decision have revolutionized how critically ill patients are treated.
What is Critical Care?
Critical care is a medical specialty that is concerned with the treatment of patients experiencing life-threatening conditions. Often referred to as ‘intensive-care’, patients in a critical care ward experience around-the-clock monitoring and often lack the ability to breathe independently or feed themselves. This can be due to illness or injury.
Patients recovering from serious surgery are also often admitted to the critical care ward so that clinicians can keep a constant eye on their recovery.
Doctors and nurses working in the critical care ward rely on a range of devices to help monitor and treat patients. These typically include catheters, feeding tubes, ventilators, and machines that track vital signs. Without such equipment, it would be near impossible for patients to make a full recovery.
What is a Point of Care Device?
As the name suggests, point of care devices is those that provide valuable medical services close to the patient. These services can be diagnostic or treatment-based.
Point of care devices is traditionally used across a range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and at-home care. They are particularly useful in a critical care environment, where patients are often immobile and far too sick to be transported to equipment located elsewhere.
There are many different types of point-of-care devices. They may be quite basic in nature — such as a glucose machine designed to be used by patients with diabetes. Alternatively, medical technology has progressed to the point where equipment with complex functionality is now available in portable form — as is the case with the point of care ultrasounds.
A point of care ultrasound enables a clinician to obtain valuable diagnostic information without causing undue distress to a patient in a critical condition.
Advantages of Point of Care Equipment
There are many advantages to using point of care equipment, from the perspective of both a clinician and a patient. One of the biggest factors in improved patient outcomes over the past few decades has been the advancements made in medical technology and the development of point of care devices is just one example of this.
Advantages of outfitting your healthcare facility with the point of care equipment include:
- Efficiency: Using a point of care device means there is no need to organize for a patient to be moved from their current location to another facility. This saves considerable time and improves the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat the patient in an efficient manner. As a result, they should be back on their feet sooner and hospital facilities will be made available to another patient in need.
- Expanded healthcare capabilities: Not all patients have access to the same healthcare services and facilities. Those living in a rural location, for example, are often at a disadvantage as they can be hours away from a well-equipped hospital or clinic. The portability of point of care devices has played a large role in improving the health outcomes of rural and regional-based Australians, enabling them to receive test results quickly and undergo treatment locally.
- Sample stability: Processing a blood sample, for example, in the traditional way, requires blood to be quickly refrigerated and transported in very particular conditions. Failure to correctly store the sample can result in it becoming damaged, which means the blood will need to be taken again. For patients that suffer from complex or life-threatening conditions, constant testing and re-testing are both inconvenient and potentially risky. Being able to test a sample immediately after it is taken reduces the risk of contamination or damage and is of significant benefit to the patient.
Point of Care in a Critical Care Environment
Being able to quickly diagnose and treat a patient who is suffering from life-threatening conditions can be the difference between a timely recovery or long-term injury.
A point of care ultrasound, for example, can be used to quickly diagnose infection and injury targeting critical organs, including the lungs and heart. This can occur once a patient has been admitted to the critical care ward or even before this stage, at home or in an ambulance.
Critical care products are therefore essential for clinicians who are tasked with the difficult responsibility of assisting patients in their most severe time of need.