Anyone who has been ill outside of business hours in Wānaka, knows how time-consuming, tiring, expensive and disruptive it can be to get a blood test in the middle of the night. (See editorial on page 13.)
Southern Community Laboratories (SCL) currently provides diagnostic services in Wānaka from Monday to Friday during the day, but outside of business hours means residents need to travel to Dunstan Hospital. And regardless of whether the patient is in Wānaka or Clyde, the samples taken need to travel to Dunstan or Dunedin for analysis.
However, together with the Southern District Health Board (SDHB), SCL is piloting new point of care services. Training for staff at Wanaka Lakes Health Centre commenced yesterday.
“As part of the contract, point of care lab diagnostics will soon be piloted at Wānaka Medical Centre,” said SCL. “The plan is that the service is operational by the end of this year. Point of care’ diagnostics will allow patients to access services such as blood tests, closer to home. Many tests will still need to be processed at Dunedin Hospital and have specialist oversight. This pilot will allow the service to be trialled before a wider roll out across the Southern DHB region.”
These new point of care tests may be available outside of normal business hours but SCL would not comment on their availability 24/7. However, they did say, “[availability] will depend on medical centre staffing arrangements but the aim is to do enough locally to be able to triage the patient and reduce the number of transfers.”
For blood tests taken during business hours in Wānaka, the pilot project will provide faster results. “Critical results that will help make decisions on the patient’s management can be done locally to better manage patients and their transfers,” they said.
SCL said point of care lab diagnostics will save time and money for both the health provider and the patient. Electronic requesting will speed up test request processes and empower clinicians to do more on site. The introduction of point of care testing within the new laboratory partnership will enable more care to happen closer to home.
“Clinical staff will be able to order and track tests in real-time, directly from their practice management system. We can spend less time filling out paperwork and chasing results, and more time seeing patients,” says Southern DHB’s medical director Dr Hywel Lloyd.