Closing the Gap with Award-winning Point-of-Care Testing in the Northern Territory

Health outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors, such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, education, and geographic location, to name a few. These are often referred to as the social determinants of health, which are defined as “conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age,” by the World Health Organization.

People living in rural and remote Australia face a unique set of challenges as a result of their geographic location, such as limited access to healthcare, and consequently, often have poorer health outcomes. Data collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that people living in rural and remote Australia have higher risks of hospitalisation, injury and death as well as poorer access to and use of primary health care services than people living in major cities.

Rural and remote regions of Australia, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are unique settings that offer rich cultural and social contexts to live, work and play. Yet, access to healthcare can be difficult, and can negatively impact health and well-being outcomes. The provision of diagnostic testing in remote settings can therefore help to improve life expectancy, decrease the burden of disease, and reduce preventable hospitalisations. 

The Northern Territory Point-of-Care Testing Program, managed by the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing, has been delivering a point-of-care pathology testing service for acute medical conditions to over 90 remote communities since 2008. More than 3,000 pathology tests are performed in these communities each month with the help of the handheld blood analyser device i-STATTM 1.

A coroner’s case in 2015 determined the use of that instrument had helped prevent patient mortality, and consequently, i-STATsTM have become an integral part of providing healthcare services. The device enables results to be generated within 2-10 minutes, allowing healthcare professionals to make fast and accurate decisions about patient triage, diagnosis, and clinical management.

Lauren Duckworth is a Senior Scientific Officer at the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing and has been working as a part of the program since 2015. Reflecting on the importance of healthcare access in rural and remote settings, she said “It’s extremely important because, you'll have people living out in the middle of nowhere and for pathology services, the nearest laboratory can be hundreds of kilometres away.

It can take days to weeks to get laboratory results back. In contrast, the i-STATTM can generate results in two minutes and can lead to significant positive outcomes for the patient.”

The program has recently been announced as a joint winner of the Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact at this year’s Engagement Australia Excellence Awards. The award recognises “excellence in research that makes a substantial difference to the community, or Australian or New Zealand prosperity, undertaken jointly by researchers in tertiary education institutes and partners in the community, business or industry contexts.”

“And it's also about keeping Indigenous patients in their communities, close to their families, rather than having to be flown thousands of kilometres away from your family and friends. This is an important cultural advantage of on-site point-of-care testing,” Mrs Duckworth added.

The i-STATTM 1 blood analyser can test for a range of conditions in only a few minutes** and is useful for diagnosing both acute and chronic health conditions, such as heart attacks, chronic kidney disease and sepsis***.

“The i-STATTM has a large range of analytes can be measured and it’s perfect for the environment that it’s being used in. Being able to have troponin, electrolytes, creatinine and urea, , (given the burden of kidney disease is extremely high in the Territory), is fantastic,” Mrs Duckworth explained.

Testing and obtaining time-sensitive results at the patient’s side streamlines the testing process and eliminates process steps and delays to enable rapid clinical decision-making and optimise patient care.

Mrs Duckworth elaborated, “With the quality management system we have in place, we're making sure that the results that they're getting are as good as what the lab would get. They’re getting results that doctors and patients can trust.”

With the use of the i-STATTM in culturally safe spaces to address health inequities, Flinders University’s Northern Territory POCT Program has illustrated the diversity of applications of POCT technology to improve health outcomes.

“I would hope there are more tests being available on fewer devices in the future because these clinics are so small, there's not much space. I guess that's the ideal, that's the dream. And I guess just anything that can allow the patients to stay on country and get their results in a timely manner rather than having to wait days or weeks to get their results,” she concluded.

Four benefits of the Abbott i-STATTM system

1.   TESTING DELAYS – Maximise resources by assessing the patient in minutes, enabling immediate care for routine and urgent cases.

2.   RELIABLE ACCURACY – Lab-accurate results enable clinicians to make patient care decisions with confidence.

3.   SMALL SAMPLE SIZE – Just two or three drops of blood are required, making testing easier on staff and patients.

4.   EASE OF USE – Simple, intuitive operation of the i-STATTM system with its cartridges make it ideal for busy departments.

The results shown here, and quoted comments are specific to one health care facility and may differ from those achieved by other institutions.

* not all i-STATTM tests product a result in 2 minutes. refer to the IFU for full details.

*** Cardiac (Troponin), CKD (Creatinine) and Sepsis (CG4 Lactate) IFUs can be found here:

For intended use and complete product information visit ©Abbott Point of Care Inc.

For in vitro diagnostic use by healthcare professionals only.

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i-STATTM and AlinityTM are trademarks of Abbott.