Precise diagnosis is playing an important role in the fight against healthcare associated infections (HAI) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but often takes a long time: What we need is more point-of-care diagnosis, allowing that diagnostic results are provided conveniently and immediately at the healthcare facility, says Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Woloszczuk, director and speaker of the Board at Biomedica.
Mr. Woloszczuk, healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance are one of the most urgent public health issues at the moment – in the clinical setting probably the biggest one. Rapid diagnostics are playing an important role tackling these problems. Why they are so essential?
Rapid diagnosis allows doctors to target the right drug to the patient immediately. A lot of money can be saved, because the hospital stay of a patient is significantly reduced. And identifying patients with a drug-resistant infection quickly prevents that the infection is passed on to other patients, because the person can be rapidly isolated.
To my knowledge rapid diagnosis is by far not state of the art in hospitals. What is the main reason therefore?
It is still expensive and therefore many hospitals are afraid investing in it. Unfortunately the costs are often seen as a big barrier for implementing rapid diagnosis.
Are there any studies illustrating the fact that healthcare systems would save money?
Yes, for example, there is one Netherlands-based study – Costs and benefits of rapid screening of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus carriage in intensive care units (2012, M. Wassenberg et al.). The authors demonstrate that rapid diagnosis could reduce the demand for intensive care unit isolation rooms by more than 40 percent.
Despite evidence from diverse studies, this issue is not yet addressed fast enough. This is regrettable, considering the fact that approximately 37.000 deaths in European hospitals are resulting from HAI. But we also have seen that things can be approached quickly – The Ebola outbreak 2013 is a good example illustrating that: All energies were being focused on managing this tragedy. A similar bundling of energies would be desirable also in connection with HAI.
Are there any best practice examples – or countries where this bundling is at least partially implemented?
Yes, for example in the Netherlands. Prevention and Diagnosis there has a higher ranking than in the most other European countries. In the Netherlands, all high-risk patients are tested (regardless of whether they have symptoms of infection or not) on the so-called big five of multiresistant pathogens. And we see a similar trend emerging in Austria.
Apart from the use of more point-to-care diagnosis – Which approach to the issue of HAI you would desire?
We need more cross border initiatives and more understanding for other hospital units – better communication between healthcare institutions and between different professions.
With 13 offices in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and a team of 250 professionals, Biomedica is a leading distributor of medical devices, in-vitro diagnostics, products for life sciences, Biomedica Immunoassays and Clinical IT. Founded in Vienna more than 35 years ago, Biomedica has grown into a multi-national company, still privately held with the main shareholders involved as full-time executives.