Virtual Clinics and Smartphone-based Medical Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) Market
Smartphone usage has grown explosively in the last 5 years. A significant volume of Gen Z smartphone owners use their devices for a variety of tasks such as gaming, e-commerce shopping, dating and online messaging, email communication, video conferencing and so on. But, did you know the Gen Z also lead in downloads of medical apps and fitness trackers.
And, senior citizen groups (age above 60 years) are also using smartphone solutions. One of the key areas in smartphone applications that are witnessing massive growth is the Infectious Disease Point-of-Care Testing Market. According to the Frost and Sullivan report, this POCT Market is growing at an explosive CAGR of 70.2% in 2020. Currently, we are looking at a $43 billion global POCT market this is further expected to explode, especially if the quarantine policies get stricter and lockdowns extended in most parts of the world. Backed by expanded abilities on smartphone and internet-connected devices, the digital POCT platforms will enable diagnostic testing beyond the clinic, transforming how assay results are gathered and analyzed.
What is a Point of Care Testing?
Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) is also referred to as virtual patient testing or with-patient testing. In a layman’s terminology, we can call POCT as pocket diagnosis applications.
POCT is a pure integration of medical diagnostic testing principles in a virtual environment. With-patient testing and monitoring are achieved using rapid testing kits and mobile diagnostic apps.
POCT allows medical staff to investigate and diagnose any disease accurately in real-time without asking the patient to actually visit a lab for testing. POCT works on a system of blood analyzers, test kits, and patient data management solutions that streamlines the entire diagnostic process where clinicians can focus on providing effective, quality patient care.
Common examples of Mobile app-based POCT include pregnancy detection and confirmation, digital thermometers, eye infection detector, blood glucose level monitors, adipose density trackers, diet control, vaccination trackers, and rapid strep test.
Which factors are driving the Point of Care testing technology market?
First, let’s dig into numbers and some startling stats provided from genuine sources.
Did you know that every year, strokes kill at least 7 million people annually?
Did you know that an independent research firm reported the global rate of unintended pregnancy was estimated at 44% of all pregnancies between 2010 and 2014? That’s 60 unintended pregnancies per 1000 women of reproductive ages (15 and 45 years).
Forecasted: the total number of new cancer cases in the US in 2020: 1,806,590¹
Total number of deaths: 606,520.
Compared to 2019, there is an average rise of about 4,950 new cases and more than 1,600 deaths each day in 2020! The numbers are reported by “Cancer Statistics, 2020,” published in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
In 2018, an estimated 69 million (95% CI 64–74 million) individuals were estimated to suffer traumatic brain injuries or TBI from all causes. The leading cause of TBI – a head injury following a road traffic collision or an accidental fall. For obvious reasons, North America and Europe report the highest number of TBI cases due to higher quality data and accurate testing models. In some cases, TBIs are not even reported, especially in cases of children below the age of 10 years.
These TBIs could result in brain concussions and epilepsies or other brain-related issues in the adulthood stage. Imagine a mother’s pain if she knew a simple mobile app-based brain trauma reporting POCT could save her child from a future brain-related disease.
Not only do timely reporting and accurate diagnosis of brain diseases help save lives, but it also saves hundreds of dollars that are spent in availing medical facilities and drugs which may often prove to be a futile exercise in most major TBIs.
So, there is an undeniable market base for POCT makers to explore and improve the quality of patients’ lives.
There are various factors, both commercial as well as technical, that drive the current POCT market. The primary factor is the rapid adoption of mobile phone usage and user’s growing interest in exploring healthcare apps that help them manage fitness, medical history, and doctor appointments. There are many healthcare-focused medical apps in the market that offer all these in a single interface.
Another important factor is the enhanced interest among the medical staff in diving into collaboration with app developers. Many doctors, radiologists and healthcare administrators are closely working with the technology innovation companies such as Philips, Seimens and others, to improve the quality of communication between doctors and patients. Doctors themselves prefer to outsource the first stage of diagnosis to self-service mobile apps to remove the ‘known’ issues of misdiagnosis resulting from faulty interaction.
Where POCT is Deployed?
POCT units can be deployed anywhere within any conventional healthcare settings. The modern POCTs could effectively work in the following areas:
- Pathology Lab
- Critical Care
- Emergency Department
- Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR)
- Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU)
- Respiratory Therapy
- Radiology and Oncology
- OPD, Dentistry, and Imaging Centers
How the COVID-19 Affected the Point of Care Testing?
Frost & Sullivan found that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the infectious disease point-of-care testing (POCT) market.
The emergence of cost-effective lab-on-a-chip and smartphone-based POCTs, alongside increasing reliance on less-invasive testing methodologies, will propel the POCT market. Globally, the infectious disease POCT market is estimated to witness more than a three-fold growth, reaching $26.4 billion by 2024 from $7.9 billion in 2019, up at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.3%.
In times of social distancing and quarantine, a POCT system is a huge enabler for medical practitioners and healthcare staff. According to Abbott, the costs of POC testing, compared to core laboratory testing (whether centralized or outsourced), can provide even greater decision-making and greater savings.
Amartya Bose, Healthcare Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, says —
“The POCT instrument selection process should involve close collaboration with supply and clinical engineering departments to incorporate their input and feedback. This is a key consideration when the POCT committee reviews all options and makes an informed decision. Hospitals/labs/pharmacies should select regional vendors for device procurement and services. This will reduce the procurement lead time and ensure devices are managed for quality assurance, timely calibrations, and interpretation of results.”
Nitin Naik, Life Sciences Vice President at Frost & Sullivan, added: “The application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is a key growth opportunity for manufacturers to enhance their product portfolios. By leveraging these platforms, POCT assay menus can be expanded for different patient groups by simply iterating the product development cycle. U.S. healthcare providers are also leveraging digital POCT along with virtual assistants to screen and triage asymptomatic patients.”
We can consider samples (blood, urine, sweat, saliva and tears) of liquid biopsy for POCT.
Blood glucose screening and diagnosis POCT is the simplest and most widely used testing system. Mobile POCTs for liquid samples use biometric sensors or bio-markers to examine. These could be using advanced colorimetric, fluorescent, brightfield, and electrochemical methods in sync with paper-based or microfluidic chip-based mobile sensors.
Neuroimaging or brain imaging / scanning is a very powerful science. And, modern AI and cognitive science capabilities can further improve the quality of study of brain and nervous systems. For now, neuroimaging techniques are EEG, PET, MRI, and fMRI scans. These scans may have varying degrees of invasiveness.
We are yet to fully develop a medical app that can replace these physical tests on a virtually managed platform.
Semen Analysis Report
Infertility affects males as much as females. 12% of men are affected by semen-related sexual issues globally. Changes in lifestyle and lack of exercise result in sexual health issues among men. Sperm count testing among men aged between 18 and 45 years is on a rise. Vasectomy also results in a drop in semen count. In the middle of COVID-19, it’s hard to manage sexual health.
In a usual setup, men would be required to undergo a labor-intensive, time-consuming semen analysis and reporting procedure. The procedure is also riddled with inaccuracies and redundancies arising at loading, transportation and testing stages — these mostly arise due to mishandling and contamination of samples.
But, there is at least one mobile app that can help men report and validate their semen analysis in real-time.
Frost & Sullivan Recommendation for POCT Vendors
To capitalize on growth opportunities in the current and post-COVID-19 situation, POCT market participants should focus on the following solutions:
- Multiplexed POCT: Integrate sample preparation and analysis within one device to offer more advantages in a competitive environment.
- COVID-19 POCT: Develop accurate serology tests and mHealth-based diagnostics, as they will play a critical role in determining the disease’s full scope, combating the pandemic.
- Digital POCT: Adopt cloud technologies as an integral part of device development to reduce the footprint and cost of POCT devices.
- Millennials and sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Produce HIV/syphilis dual tests as evidence suggests a two- to five-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to it when syphilis is present.
We could also see an enhanced focus on the development of POCT for pre-hospital care, toxicology, and Point-of-Care Hemostasis Testing. POCT education resources are also considered as enablers of this trend. For example, Siemens POCkit is a web-based application providing immediate access from any device to educational videos and job aids on how to use Siemens’ point-of-care testing solutions. Webmd, Medscape, and CDC are also reliable sources of information on POCT applications.
Beware of Quacks
I have been investigating the “useless apps” on Google Play Store and Apple Play.
Did you there is an app called ” Virtual Sanitizer” on Google Play that does nothing but quacks you into downloading and using it for no reasons? It’s just as bad as the coronavirus — it has over a million downloads, meaning the app has gone viral on Play store.
Similarly, there are millions of other apps that prank you or cheat you to download them for absolutely no medical reasons. With security issues targeting the medical apps, the rise of prankster-based health apps unravels the hidden dangers of technology in the wrong hands.