November 2016 saw clinicians from Latin America converge in São Paulo, Brazil, attending the first Latin American Point-of-Care (POC) Day. The conference was held to share best practices and case studies in POC testing (POCT), and support its uptake across Latin America.
Latin American clinicians at the first POC conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Twenty 15-minute-lectures from respected KOL from across the Americas were presented during this one-day meeting. The attendees, numbering over 180, represented a broad range of medical specialties. Renowned experts spoke about the opportunities and obstacles toward the integration of POCT in health care systems.
One of the topics discussed among the conference panelists was 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, observed that in Brazil, the current HIV rapid diagnostics are very good in quality, and in the year 2015, over 8.5 million HIV tests were distributed for use in the country.
It was found that 255,000 individuals were affected with HIV, who would have otherwise remained undiagnosed, but for this substantial screening initiative. Ms. Franchini highlighted the urgent need for rapid, widespread HIV testing in Brazil since far too many HIV-positive Brazilians are not aware of their infection.
Another topic of concern at the conference was antimicrobial resistance. According to Dr. Adelino de Melo Freire Jr., an infectious disease specialist and head of the Hospital Infection Committee of the Felício Rocho Hospital in Brazil, rapid tests are important as they help providers to avoid prescribing unnecessary antibiotics and limit the spectrum of antibiotics being used.
For instance, he said that his hospital employs antigen and toxin tests to confirm potential cases of Clostridium difficile infection, so that in case of positive results, the providers can quickly start hospital infection control procedures and begin the treatment.
Rapid, POC monitoring devices to manage chronic diseases were also discussed at the conference. Dr. Jorge Espinoza, a specialist in Endocrinology and Human Reproductive Biology and former president of the Mexican Diabetes Federation, informed that diabetes is a degenerative chronic disease that is highly prevalent in Mexico; it is linked to high blood pressure, obesity, and reduced life expectancy.
Espinoza also added that the POC hemoglobin A1c tests are useful to physicians as they provide real-time assessments of the patients’ diabetes control, and allow the physicians to adjust the treatment, if found necessary.
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), spoke about her clinic’s successful use of rapid POCT in pharmacies during the 2015 dengue epidemic in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Patients suspected of suffering from dengue were rapidly screened at the clinic. The positively-tested patients were either hospitalized or, in less severe cases, given out-patient treatment, thus reducing the burden on the emergency department.
The founder of a startup providing affordable online medical consultations, Carlos Ballarati, talked about the clinical and economic efficiency benefits of POCT.
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.”
The event exceeded expectations in terms of projecting the relevance and benefits of POCT in Latin America, and paving the way for increased use of POCT in the future. Having become the forum of choice to gather POC community on an annual basis, the Latin American POC Day, after its first edition, is planning to hold its second meeting in Colombia in October 2017.
Produced from materials originally authored by Cyrille Schroeder, Vice President, Marketing for Latin America, Alere Inc.
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