Point-of-care devices (POC) in the medical industry

The medical industry continues to be driven by technological advances. As far back as the invention of the stethoscope, advanced devices have been developed in response to industry demands and global circumstances.

For example, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted diagnostic device manufacturers to develop compact, portable devices able to rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2 infections – a development that has been instrumental in mapping the number and spread of COVID-19 infections both nationally and globally.

Point-of-care testing (POCT) - also referred to as ‘near-patient testing’ – involves the use of portable devices to medically examine a patient during a consultation. Point-of-care (POC) devices are able to provide instantaneous results, supporting the provision of timely patient care by better-informed healthcare professionals.

Doctors and patients are no longer required to wait for lab results in order to make an appropriate diagnosis. Medical POC devices are available throughout clinics and hospitals, allowing medical professionals to acquire rapid, accurate results and offering them more time to focus on treatment and patient care.

POC devices offer a wide range of benefits, including:

  • The provision of lab-quality results in minutes
  • Robust near-patient diagnosis
  • Reduced need for clinical visits
  • More time to focus on treatment

The role of vision in POC devices

The most frequently encountered point-of-care devices include pregnancy test kits, fecal immunochemical tests, blood glucose analyzers and hemoglobin tests.

The majority of POC devices are currently reliant on chemiluminescence and boronate affinity fluorescence quenching, though the field is seeing increasing integration of cameras into POCs.

The medical field can see tangible benefits from the use of compact, user-friendly POC devices with robust vision systems. These systems enable clinicians to perform tests outside the laboratory, with the camera in the POC device analyzing sample contents to yield image data for subsequent software processing.

This allows doctors to access lab-quality results remotely, facilitating early and improved diagnosis of severe and even potentially fatal diseases.

Different types of vision-enabled POC devices

Urology imaging

Urinalysis tools represent a critical means of diagnosing and monitoring urinary tract and kidney diseases. Conventional urinalysis systems involve the sample analysis being performed using a microscope, but this method requires a considerable amount of time and the availability of highly trained medical lab technicians.

Automated urinalysis systems powered by digital imaging offer a robust means of detecting kidney and urinary tract diseases. These methods also offer ease of use and increased sensitivity.

A digital automated urinalysis system produces a monolayer of urine sediment which is analyzed using a digital camera and a brightfield microscope. The system captures digital images and uses these to classify urine samples based on shape and size.

Image-based analysis systems can be used to automatically scan the formed elements of the urine sample before displaying these as images on the screen. The technician can conveniently zoom in to view these digital images without the need for manual microscopy.

Ophthalmology

Ophthalmic devices, such as portable fundus cameras, are employed in a range of medical applications, from outpatient triage and examinations to the care of children and older people.

These cameras are an ideal option for patients unable to sit comfortably in front of a conventional fundus camera or slit lamp.

Retinal imaging is made easy through the use of portable retinal cameras. While these cameras are smaller than conventional fundus cameras, they also offer a larger field of view when examining the retina’s most critical areas.

Enhanced fundus cameras also include autoexposure and autofocus features, helping to considerably improve patients’ dilation time.

The use of an efficient, portable, lightweight fundus camera allows ophthalmologists to perform non-mydriatic retinal examinations with ease.

Dental point-of-care devices

Intraoral cameras allow dental professionals to observe hidden and otherwise inaccessible areas of the mouth. Using these cameras, it is possible to identify defects and decay in teeth irrespective of their position in the mouth.

A portable, compact and flexible camera-based device facilitates the straightforward capture of sharp, clear images directly inside the patient’s mouth.

Most patients are unaware of the severity of their diseases, meaning it can be challenging for the dentist to explain and justify a proposed treatment procedure. The use of real-time videos and images from an intraoral camera allows dentists to educate and inform patients around suitable treatment options.

Intraoral devices fitted with cameras able to cover a wide focus range can be used to examine the wide area of the jawline. Autofocus technology allows the lens to rapidly adjust to the camera’s shutter speed, accurately and rapidly capturing the area of interest.

Dermatology

Camera-based POC devices are essential tools in the monitoring and evaluation of skin cancer. Dermatologists depend on images captured by these devices to accurately determine the exact position of lesions and monitor their progress following treatment.

The use of a high-quality dermatology camera facilitates the generation of specifically enhanced images to help detect any changes in lesion shape, color and size.

Portable handheld camera-based dermatology devices are affordable enough to facilitate self-examination by patients. For example, techniques such as dermoscopy can be used to magnify a lesion 10x, empowering users to assess and diagnose a range of skin diseases.

The ability to capture vivid and detailed images also supports users in differentiating the various stages of skin pigmentation – a key factor in detecting early stages of melanoma.

The future of POC devices

Point-of-care devices have a promising future due to their ability to easily and accessibly detect health problems before they become serious or life-threatening, such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases.

Recent advances in epidermal electronics and portable diagnostic devices have enabled POC technology to revolutionize the medical field. Emerging and advanced technologies, such as miniature wearables, provide a means of acquiring continuous and real-time data for processing and clinical knowledge.

AI-based POC devices continue to break new ground throughout the medical industry.

The use of an appropriate camera and the leveraging of cutting-edge AI capabilities has enabled modern POC devices to transmit key biological data from any location, vastly enhancing doctor-patient communication. These futuristic devices can also be used to signal when patients need immediate medical attention.

Compact retail clinics continue to emerge, offering care for minor illnesses. These clinics rely on portable devices for their daily operating, and medical professionals are increasingly switching over to POC devices due to the availability of higher sensitivity and accurate, immediate results.

Acknowledgments

Produced from materials originally authored by Balaji S, https://www.linkedin.com/in/balaji-s-51047716/, from e-con Systems.

About e-con Systems

e-con Systems™ is a leading OEM camera manufacturer with 18+ years of experience and expertise in embedded vision. It focuses on delivering vision and camera solutions to industries such as medical, retail, and industrial. The company’s wide portfolio of products includes MIPI camera modules, USB 3.1 Gen 1 cameras, GMSL cameras, stereo cameras, etc. It has built over 250+ product-based solutions and shipped millions of cameras around the globe. What sets the company apart is its deep expertise in building customized product designs while ensuring rapid prototyping and custom modifications in hardware and software. e-Con Systems™ has close partnerships with Sony, ON Semiconductor®, Omnivision, NVIDIA, Xilinx, Socionext™, Cypress, Connect Tech, Toradex, Variscite, Toshiba, Diamond Systems, Avermedia and Texas Instruments.

Giving sight to medical applications:

e-con Systems™ offers end-to-end camera solutions to meet the needs of the medical and healthcare industry. It has a strong foothold in the medical device industry – having empowered clients to integrate unique camera solutions for medical and life science applications in ophthalmology, dentistry, dermatology, laboratory equipment, microscopy, assistive technology, point-of-care technology etc. e-con Systems also has a solid track record of working with the medical device industry leaders such as Thermofisher, Idexx, Perkin Elmer, Amwell, Welch Allyn, Seegene and others.”


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Last updated: Dec 10, 2021 at 10:21 AM

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