NT testing program named an award finalist

Flinders University’s Northern Territory Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) program has been named a finalist in Engagement Australia’s 2021 Excellence Awards.

Established in 2008 with the NT Department of Health, the POCT program delivers rapid on-site pathology testing in 80 remote communities across the Northern Territory.

This month, the program has been shortlisted for the Award for Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact, which recognises excellence in research and development activity that makes a substantial difference to the community, or Australian prosperity, undertaken jointly by researchers in tertiary education institutes and partners in the community, business and industry.

“It is wonderful to have the Northern Territory POCT Program recognised as providing improved clinical outcomes to those residing in remote communities, as well as being more culturally appropriate and producing significant cost savings,” says Dr Brooke Spaeth, Point-of-Care Coordinator for the Northern Territory Point-of-Care Testing Program.

“Being selected as a finalist in this award provides a sense of recognition to the team at Flinders University, and key project partner NT Health, who have worked collaboratively for many years to establish this Territory-wide POCT Program to provide equitable access to pathology services for remote Territorians.

“It is hoped that by shining a light on the impact of this Point-of-Care Testing Program, we may be able to extend the services more widely to other remote locations in Australia.”

With more than 3,000 tests performed each month across the remote network, the POC devices deliver results within 2-to-10 minutes that can guide patient triage, clinical management and diagnose a variety of illnesses, including sepsis and heart attack.

Without the service, remote patients would face waiting times of up to days or weeks, or possible removal from their community to access safe management. Delays in sending pathology tests away for analysis result in possible in loss of life or expensive unnecessary air retrievals.

The Program also pivoted to assist with pandemic management in 2020, with many device operators trained to conduct PCR testing for COVID-19 with a turnaround time of only 45 minutes.

The POCT Program is underpinned by translational and implementation research undertaken at Flinders University’s International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing, led by Co-Directors Professor Mark Shephard and Dr Susan Matthews, both internationally recognised leaders in the field.

Formerly known as the BHERT Awards, Engagement Australia’s Excellent Awards identify and celebrate the transformative engagement activities undertaken by universities that demonstrate far-reaching impact and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.

The winners will be announced online on Tuesday 30 November.

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Alumni College of Medicine and Public Health International Centre for Point-of-care Testing