Gary Boas, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.