The authors present their findings on how best to optimise the placement of point-of-care (POC) devices in health networks in resource-limited countries
A major constraint in tackling diseases with high socioeconomic burden (e.g., Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV) in many resource-strapped economies is the unavailability of appropriate diagnostic devices that can inform clinical decisions in a timely manner. Existing devices to diagnose these conditions are usually bulky; require skilled technicians and well-developed infrastructure such as uninterrupted power supply, air conditioning, and sterile environment. These requirements naturally result in formation of centralised diagnostic networks, wherein samples are collected from remote clinics and transported to centralised laboratories and results are communicated back to the clinics. This centralised structure typically leads to inordinate delays between sample collection and return of results to the facilities (termed as turnaround time) and consequently to patients, which in turn leads to poor patient retention and health outcomes.
In response to these challenges, several small and portable devices capable of diagnosing a variety of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV at the point of care (POC) targeted at resource-limited settings, are under development at various academic research laboratories around the world1. On the one hand, these POC devices obviate the need for complex supply chain for samples and results. However, on the other hand, they are less accurate due to technological limitations. They are also not as inexpensive and easy to operate as “strip tests” such as the ones used to monitor blood sugar levels or detect pregnancy.