Economic Evidence and Point-of-Care Testing

Clin Biochem Rev. 2013 Aug;34(2):61-74.


Health economics has been an established feature of the research, policymaking, practice and management in the delivery of healthcare. However its role is increasing as the cost of healthcare begins to drive changes in most healthcare systems. Thus the output from cost effectiveness studies is now being taken into account when making reimbursement decisions, e.g. in Australia and the United Kingdom. Against this background it is also recognised that the health economic tools employed in healthcare, and particularly the output from the use of these tools however, are not always employed in the routine delivery of services. One of the notable consequences of this situation is the poor record of innovation in healthcare with respect to the adoption of new technologies, and the realisation of their benefits. The evidence base for the effectiveness of diagnostic services is well known to be limited, and one consequence of this has been a very limited literature on cost effectiveness. One reason for this situation is undoubtedly the reimbursement strategies employed in laboratory medicine for many years, simplistically based on the complexity of the test procedure, and the delivery as a cost-per-test service. This has proved a disincentive to generate the required evidence, and little effort to generate an integrated investment and disinvestment business case, associated with care pathway changes. Point-of-care testing creates a particularly challenging scenario because, on the one hand, the unit cost-per-test is larger through the loss of the economy of scale offered by automation, whilst it offers the potential of substantial savings through enabling rapid delivery of results, and reduction of facility costs. This is important when many health systems are planning for complete system redesign. We review the literature on economic assessment of point-of-care testing in the context of these developments.

Publication types

  • Review