A review of near patient testing in primary care.
Hobbs FD., Delaney BC., Fitzmaurice DA., Wilson S., Hyde CJ., Thorpe GH., Earl-Slater AS., Jowett S., Tobias RS.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES. The aim was to identify publications relating to near patient testing (NPT), the use of alternative delivery systems between laboratory and general practice, including electronic data interchange (EDI), and computerised diagnostic decision support (CDDS), in the primary care setting to answer the following questions. What is the availability of NPT for primary care? What evidence is available to support the clinical effectiveness of NPT? What evidence is available on the accuracy and reliability of NPT within primary care? What evidence is available on the cost-effectiveness of different NPTs? How may CDDS improve the effectiveness of NPT? What evidence is available that compares NPT and existing laboratory services? What evidence is available on the cost-effectiveness of EDI or alternative delivery systems? HOW THE RESEARCH WAS CONDUCTED. Eight databases were searched, and the bibliographies from relevant publications checked for completeness. Unpublished work and publications not included in the databases were obtained by personal contact with collaborators, and from a postal survey sent to heads of academic departments of general practice and clinical chemistry and to researchers active or interested in the field worldwide. Questionnaires were also sent to 150 commercial organisations. Publications that met agreed definitions and reported original data were included in the systematic review. Of the 1057 publications identified, 102 (92 related to NPT, eight to CDDS, and two to EDI) were passed to the reviewers for appraisal of validity. The limited amount of published research relating to any particular NPT prohibited meta-analysis. Scoring systems to assess the validity of evaluations were also difficult to apply. RESEARCH FINDINGS. A wide variety of NPT systems have been developed. In general, the quality of the methods reported in the literature was poor. The issue of patient convenience and acceptability has not been adequately addressed. No evaluations of alternative delivery systems met the review criteria. No studies have evaluated the telephone or fax machine as a means of reporting results. For EDI, the majority of papers were descriptive. EDI and alternative delivery systems are not a replacement for NPT when the provision of an immediate result might have an impact on the quality of care. EDI may have clinical and cost advantages over traditional means of communication, but this has not been evaluated. The advisory role of the laboratory can be supported by CDDS. The use of CDDS and NPT has not, however, been fully evaluated. Few economic analyses have been conducted, and most were simple cost analyses. There are insufficient data for conclusions to be drawn on the cost-effectiveness of NPT in primary care. RECOMMENDATIONS. FURTHER SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS. Subject-specific systematic reviews are required that include laboratory and secondary care studies, and consider the potential for altering current management and patient acceptability. Priority topics include: biochemistry profiles on desktop analysers; cholesterol testing; urinalysis for the diagnosis of urinary tract infection; anticoagulation control; NPTs for the identification of acute infection. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)