Laboratory testing during critical care transport: point-of-care testing in air ambulances

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Air and ground transport are used for prehospital transport of patients in acute life-threatening situations, and increasingly, critically ill patients undergo interhospital transportation. Results from clinical studies suggest that critical tests performed during the transport of critically ill patients presents a potential opportunity to improve patient care. Our project was to identify, according to the recommendations published at this time, a model of point-of-care testing (POCT) (arterial blood gases analysis and glucose, sodium, potassium, ionized calcium, hematocrit/hemoglobin measurements) in air ambulances. In order to identify the key internal and external factors that are important to achieving our objective, an analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT analysis) was incorporated into our planning model prior to starting the project. To allow the entire POCT process (pre-, intra-, and post-analytic steps) to be under the control of the reference laboratory, an experimental model of information technology was applied. Real-time results during transport of critically ill patients must be considered to be an integral part of the patient care process and excellent channels of communication are needed between the intensive care units, emergency medical services and laboratories. With technological and computer advances, POCT during critical care transport will certainly increase in the future: this will be a challenge from a laboratory and clinical context.

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