Organisation and quality monitoring for point-of-care testing (POCT) in Belgium: proposal for an expansion of the legal framework for POCT into primary health care.
Van Hoof V., Barglazan D., Blairon L., Braekevelt B., Debois R., De Vos NVJ., Gruson D., Jonckheere J., Lanckmans K., Moens M., Peeters B., Penders J., Roman A., Van Hoovels L., Vanstapel F., Verbakel JY., Verdonck A., Verstraete AG.
Background: There is a trend towards decentralisation of laboratory tests by means of Point-of-Care testing (POCT). Within hospitals, Belgian law requires a POCT policy, coordinated by the clinical laboratory. There is however no legal framework for POCT performed outside the hospital: no reimbursement, no compulsory quality monitoring and no limits nor control on the prices charged to the patient. Uncontrolled use of POCT can have negative consequences for individual and public health. Proposal: We propose that POCT outside hospitals would only be reimbursed for tests carried out within a legal framework, requiring evidence-based testing and collaboration with a clinical laboratory, because clinical laboratories have procedures for test validation and quality monitoring, are equipped for electronic data transfer, are familiar with logistical processes, can provide support when technical issues arise and can organise and certify training. Under these conditions the government investment will be offset by health benefits, e.g. fall in antibiotic consumption with POCT for CRP in primary care, quick response to SARS-CoV2-positive cases in COVID-19 triage centres. Priorities:1° extension of the Belgian decree on certification of clinical laboratories to decentralised tests in primary care; 2° introduction of a separate reimbursement category for POCT; 3° introduction of reimbursement for a limited number of specified POCT; 4° setup of a Multidisciplinary POCT Advisory Council, the purpose of which is to draw up a model for reimbursement of POCT, to select tests eligible for reimbursement and to make proposals to the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (RIZIV/INAMI).