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Study probes the point-of-care testing market

BioPhotonics
May 2010
Gary Boas, gary.boas@photonics.com

The field of point-of-care diagnostics has garnered a great deal of interest in recent years as advances in microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip techniques and optical detection methods – and miniaturization of the associated technologies – have made it ever more possible to bring diagnostic testing to the patient. Practitioners have seen that, with the array of portable and handheld instruments now available, it is feasible to do more with less – one of the major challenges of health care.

In March, Yole Développement, based in Lyon, France, released a market and technological study, Point of Care Testing: Applications of Microfluidics Technologies, which examines the point-of-care market and provides an analysis of the many applications of microfluidic technologies.

According to the report, point-of-care diagnostics has shown significant growth in the past three years and currently represents 15 percent of the in vitro diagnostics market. It anticipates a market share of more than 30 percent by 2014. The potential to deliver fast, low-cost testing to a greater number of users – at the point of care – is the key driver of growth, but progress will follow only if developers of the technology identify the right applications.


A recently released report looks at some of the obstacles that could impede growth in the point-of-care diagnostics market.


“The first issue is finding the real markets,” said Frédéric Breussin, author of the report, “where a point-of-care solution really matters enough to some purchaser to drive demand. Obvious as this sounds, it has actually proved quite difficult to find the right mix of need, volume and cost to break into the complex established medical infrastructure.”

Proponents of point-of-care diagnostics have always emphasized its ability to provide rapid results in the field – in emergency care situations, for example. The report notes, however, that actually only a handful of such applications exist, and most of these are relatively small markets with demand often less than 500,000 units per year. The medical benefit of the increased turnaround time may be marginal, while the operational benefits to the system – including improved efficiency and lower costs – are likely “too diffuse to have a clear champion.”

Instead, other markets are emerging with the development of advanced integrated systems with complex sample preparation and molecular diagnostics. These include testing for infectious diseases, agricultural and environmental screening applications, and wellness testing. Breussin warns, though, that the point-of-care market is still not likely to explode anytime soon, as the industry must still grapple with issues related to the technology itself and with questions about integrating it into the health care system.


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