In the early days of medicine, few medical tests existed that were done at the patient's bedside. By the 1950s, automated technologies meant centralized clinical laboratories could run large numbers of tests at low cost. It became common to send samples away to laboratories and then wait days to weeks for results.
As the need for faster test results has grown and certain testing devices have become portable and easy to use, medical testing has evolved once again. Today, results from clinical laboratories remain a crucial component of your healthcare, but they are now complemented by tests performed outside of the laboratory, wherever you are.
Point-of-care testing spans so many areas of medicine that it is best defined by where it's done – anywhere outside the centralized laboratory – rather than by the kinds of tests that are performed. It may be referred to by many different names, such as near-patient testing, remote testing, satellite testing, and rapid diagnostics. In general, point-of-care testing encompasses any tests that are performed at or near a patient and at the site where care or treatment is provided. Results are typically available relatively quickly so that they can be acted upon without delay.