Healthcare News & Insights

How point-of-care testing can make a big difference in hospital EDs

Hospital emergency departments (EDs) face many challenges with the shift toward a value-based reimbursement model – but placing an emphasis on point-of-care testing may help.

Meeting performance measures can be tough while under pressure to treat many patients, who are often critically ill, in a short time. In fact, several quality measures specifically deal with improving patient flow in an ED, with a focus on decreasing the time between a patient’s arrival and discharge.

Naturally, the question arises: How can EDs make measurable strides in decreasing patient wait times while still providing high-quality care?

Implementing point-of-care bedside testing for patients is a strategy that’s proven to be beneficial. In the ED setting, point-of-care testing may include tests for blood gases, glucose and cardiac markers.

Testing saves time, lives

Point-of-care testing can be a real time-saver when it comes to patient care. It cuts out the middle man for lab work, enabling patients and staff to see test results right away. Since time is of the essence for treating many life-threatening conditions, these extra minutes can make a huge difference in getting patients the care they need.

Of particular interest to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is testing for cardiac troponins. These tests are critical to the survival of both patients who’ve had a heart attack and those with chest pain, as they indicate whether the person’s condition is likely to deteriorate due to heart damage.

There’s even a specific quality measure tied to this testing, which requires that troponin results for patients in the ED who have had a heart attack or are experiencing chest pain must be received within 60 minutes of their arrival.

One ED’s success story

As proof of the effectiveness of point-of-care testing, Dr. Steven Berkowitz, president of SMB Health Consulting in Texas, offered his experience at a full-service hospital where he served as the chief medical officer.

According to Dr. Berkowitz, the hospital’s ED received between 60,000 and 70,000 patient visits annually, and it faced problems with overcrowding and extended patient stays.

As a way to streamline patient treatment and root out inefficiencies, the ED started performing point-of-care testing, including testing for cardiac troponins in patients with chest pain and performing a basic metabolic panel for others.

By making these tests standard, the hospital hoped to expedite the process of treating patients, “enabling faster turnaround times and decision-making, and reducing the time needed to intervene or discharge,” Dr. Berkowitz said.

In a year’s time, the hospital showed dramatic improvements to that end. Patient length of stay in the ED went from an average of three hours and three minutes to two hours and 40 minutes. Door-to-lab time for test results measured in at 20 minutes, down from 70 minutes. And door-to-physician time went from 45 minutes to 38 minutes.

Even better for the hospital’s bottom line: The ED experienced a 17% increase in the number of patients seen, which made a significant impact on the hospital’s revenue stream, said Dr. Berkowitz.

Point-of-care testing in your hospital

In today’s healthcare climate, results like these can’t be ignored. If you haven’t begun point-of-care testing at your hospital’s ED, it may beneficial to start.

To learn more, there are numerous resources at your disposal. One great place to look is, which has info about many of the available devices hospitals can use for testing.

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