Context.-Emergency medical services (EMS) programs have been using point-of-care testing (POCT) for more than 20 years. However, only a handful of reports have been published in all of that time on POCT practices in field settings. Objective.-To provide an overview of POCT practices and failure modes in 3 of Alberta's EMS programs, and to propose risk-mitigation strategies for reducing or eliminating these failure modes. Design.-Details about POCT practices, failure modes, and risk-mitigation strategies were gathered through (1) conversations with personnel, (2) in-person tours of EMS bases, (3) accompaniment of EMS personnel on missions, (4) internet searches for publicly available information, and (5) a review of laboratory documents. Results.-Practices were most standardized and robust in the community paramedicine program (single service provider, full laboratory oversight), and least standardized and robust in the air ambulance program (4 service providers, limited laboratory oversight). Common failure modes across all 3 programs included device inoperability due to cold weather, analytical validation procedures that failed to consider the unique challenges of EMS settings, and a lack of real-time electronic transmission of results into the health care record. Conclusions.-A provincial framework for POCT in EMS programs is desirable. Such a framework should include appropriate funding models, laboratory oversight of POCT, and relevant expertise on POCT in EMS settings. The framework should also incorporate specific guidance on quality standards that are needed to address the unique challenges of performing POCT in field settings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Medical Laboratory Technology