Blattner K, Beazley CJ, Nixon G, Herd G, Wigglesworth J, Rogers-Koroheke MG. The impact of the introduction of a point-of-care haematology analyser in a New Zealand rural hospital with no onsite laboratory. Rural and Remote Health 2019; 19: 4934. https://doi.org/10.22605/RRH4934 Open Access link
Mixed methods study from the team at Rawene in the Far North showing the, sometimes significant, impact of having a point-of-care FBC analyser in their small rural hospital. Knowledge is power and cost saving… Interesting that the largest cost saving is for the base hospital – something that seems like is missed in funding discussions.
Kati is a senior member of the rural section and convenes GENA 724 – The context of rural hospital medicine.
Hokianga Hospital is a small rural hospital in the far north of New Zealand serving a predominantly Maori population of 6500. The hospital, an integral part of a comprehensive primary healthcare service, provides continuous acute in-hospital and emergency care. Point-of-care (POC) biochemistry has been available at the hospital since 2010 but there is no onsite laboratory. This study looked at the impact of introducing a POC haematology benchtop analyser at Hokianga Hospital.
This was a mixed methods study conducted at Hokianga Hospital over 4 months in 2016. Quantitative and qualitative components and a cost–benefit analysis were combined using an integrative process. Part I: Doctors working at Hokianga Hospital completed a form before and after POC haematology testing, recording test indication, differential diagnosis, planned patient disposition and impact on patient treatment. Part II: Focus group interviews were conducted with Hokianga Hospital doctors, nurses and a cultural advisor. Part III: An analysis of cost versus tangible benefits was conducted.
Part I: A total of 97 POC haematology tests were included in the study. Of these, 97% were undertaken in the setting of the acute clinical presentation and 72% were performed out of hours. The average number of differential diagnoses reduced from 2.43 pre-test to 1.7 post-test, (χ2 tests p<0.05). There was a significant reduction in the number of patients transferred and an increase in the number of patients discharged home (χ2 tests p<0.05). Part II: Three main themes were identified: impact on patient management, challenges and the commitment to ‘make it work’. POC haematology had a positive impact on patient management and clinician confidence mainly by increasing diagnostic certainty. The main challenges related to the hidden costs of implementing the analyser and its associated quality assurance program in a remote-from-laboratory setting. Part III: Tangible cost–benefit analysis showed a clear cost saving to the health system as a whole.
This is the first published study evaluating the impact of haematology POC testing on acute clinical care in a rural hospital with no onsite laboratory. Timely access to a full blood count POC improves clinical care and addresses inequity. There was an overall reduction in healthcare costs. The study highlighted the hidden costs of implementing POC systems and their associated quality assurance programs in a remote-from-laboratory context.