Federal regulators continue to recognize value of clinical laboratory testing in near-patient settings
To help in the diagnosis and management of two sexually-transmitted diseases, another point-of-care diagnostic test will soon be available for use in physician’s offices, urgent care clinics, and other healthcare settings. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it granted a CLIA waiver for the binx health io CT/NG assay, a molecular platform used to detect sexually transmitted diseases—chlamydia and gonorrhea—at the point of care (POC).
This will be welcome news to many medical professionals, as it indicates federal regulators recognize the value of diagnostic testing in near-patient settings.
Allows Non-Laboratorian Processing at Point of Care
In 2019, binx health received FDA 510k clearance to market its binx io rapid point-of-care (POC) platform for women’s health. “The binx io platform is a rapid, qualitative, fully-automated test, designed to be easy to use, and intended for use in POC or clinical laboratory settings … In the company’s recently completed 1,523-person, multi-center clinical study, 96% of patient samples were processed on the binx io by non-laboratorians in a POC setting,” a binx press release noted.
“With ever-increasing sexually transmitted infection rates, point-of-care and CLIA-waived platforms like the binx io are essential additions to our sexually-transmitted-infection-control toolbox, which will increase accessibility and decrease the burden on traditional healthcare settings,” Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a binx press release.
According to binx, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five people in the US has a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), with an estimated 108 million Americans potentially in need of routine STD testing. Additionally, chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most treated STDs globally.
Study Finds Binx Health POC Assay Comparable to Traditional Clinical Laboratory NAATs
Van Der Pol led a team of researchers who compared the binx io chlamydia/gonorrhea POC assay to three commercially-available nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). The binx-funded study, published in JAMA Network Open, analyzed swab samples from 1,523 women (53.6% with symptoms) and urine samples from 922 men (33.4% symptomatic) who presented to 11 clinics in nine cities across the US.
The molecular point-of-care assay proved on par with laboratory-based molecular diagnostics for vaginal swab samples, while male urine samples were associated with “good performance.”
Sensitivity of the new POC assay was 96.1% (95% CI, 91.2%-98.3%) for women and 92.5% (95% CI, 86.4%-96.0%) for men.
Specificity of the new POC assay was 99.1% (95% CI, 98.4%-99.5%) for women and 99.3% (95% CI, 98.4%-99.7%) for men.
Sensitivity estimates were 100.0% (95% CI, 92.1%-100.0%) for women and 97.3% (95% CI, 90.7%-99.3%) for men.
Specificity estimates were 99.9% (95% CI, 99.5%-100%) for women and 100% (95% CI, 95.5%-100%) for men.
Van Der Pol told Reuters News, “The bottom line is that chlamydia and gonorrhea are still the most frequently reported notifiable diseases in the US, and it costs us in the $5 billion to $6 billion range to manage the consequences of untreated infections. Unfortunately, about 70% of women who are infected don’t have any symptoms, so they don’t know they need to be tested.”
The CLIA waiver allows binx to distribute the chlamydia/gonorrhea test to 220,000 CLIA-waived locations across the US through the company’s national commercial distribution partnership with McKesson. Obstetrician/gynecologist and primary care offices, urgent care facilities, community health clinics, STD clinics, and retail settings are all potential testing sites.
Binx says its testing platform can improve health outcomes by:
Increasing treatment compliance,
Limiting onward transmission,
Minimizing the risk of untreated conditions, and
Ensuring the right treatment is provided.
In the binx health press release, binx CEO Jeffrey Luber, JD, said, “The io instrument’s demonstrated clinical effectiveness, ease of operation, and patient convenience make it a much-needed tool with transformative implications for public health, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, where STI [sexually-transmitted infection] prevention services nationwide have been dramatically reduced or cut altogether as resources have been allocated to focus on the COVID response.”
Should Clinical Laboratories Be Concerned about POCT?
It happens often: after consulting with his or her doctor, a patient visits a clinical laboratory and leaves a specimen. The test results arrive at the doctor’s office in a few days, but the patient never returns for treatment. That is why point-of-care tests (POCTs) came to be developed in the first place. With the patient in the clinic, a positive test result means treatment can begin immediately.
As the US healthcare system continues toward more integration of care and reimbursement based on value, rather than fee-for-service, point-of-care testing enables physicians and other healthcare providers to diagnose, test, and prescribe treatment all in one visit.
Thus, it is a positive step for healthcare providers. However, clinical laboratories may view the FDA’s increasing endorsement of waived point-of-care testing as a trend that is unfavorable because it diverts specimens away from central laboratories.
There also are critics within the medical laboratory profession who point out that waived tests—often performed by individuals with little or no training in laboratory medicine—have much greater potential for an inaccurate or unreliable result, when compared to the same assay run in a complex, CLIA-certified clinical laboratory.
Many aspects of traditional clinical laboratory pathology testing remain rooted to cancer care even as the cancer care industry embraces precision medicine, and digital pathology testing and interpretation
There’s good news for anatomic pathologists worried about the future of the pathology profession. A recent survey of oncology program participants in the United States determined that Precision Medicine—and the need for precision diagnostics—will be one of the top trends that significantly reshape how cancers are diagnosed and treated in the US.
Some of these five trends indirectly impact clinical laboratories and pathology groups by directly affecting the healthcare practices of hospitals and private practice doctors who order medical laboratory tests for their cancer patients.
Lindsey Conway, Managing Director, Research and Insights Division, for The Advisory Board, covered five of the top trends she says will “shape the business of cancer care in 2017,” which MedCityNews reported. They include:
One of the trends involves increased use of specialized diagnostic tests that identify genetic mutations to help ensure cancer drugs and therapies are precisely targeted to a patient’s specific needs. This is a critical element of precision medicine.
Here are brief run-downs on each of the five trends:
Precision Medicine in Clinical Laboratory Cancer Care
The survey found precision medicine to be among the top trends impacting the cancer care business in 2017. This will be of particular interest to pathologists and clinical laboratory leaders who provide services to oncologists and cancer patients.
ACCC’s press release states: “By taking the pulse on issues such as program mergers and acquisitions, clinical pathways usage, and precision medicine and immunotherapy, ACCC can continue to provide needed resources to its members.”
The Advisory Board is a respected “think tank” that uses research, technology, and consulting to aid healthcare organizations. And, the ACCC is an advocacy and education organization for cancer care professionals.
“We are all betting big on the promise of precision medicine,” declared Conway, in the MedCityNews story. She noted, however, specific challenges related to precision medicine. They include:
Drawing on the AB/ACCC findings, MedCityNews noted that about 69% of cancer care consumers who use the Internet in healthcare decision-making are likely to change providers who receive negative online reviews.
These findings are not lost on cancer center administrators and medical directors who, according to an Advisory Board news release announcing the results of a survey of 250 cancer program leaders, have “increased interest in cancer patient consumerism—mainly around how to identify patient priorities and market cancer program services directly to patients.”
Telehealth Takes Cancer Care Virtual
Telehealth (AKA, Telemedicine) involves telecommunications and information technologies (IT), such as video, audio, and Internet-based software, to bring healthcare services to resource strapped remote and rural environments. One example of telemedicine that is focused on cancer care is the Breast Cancer Ally mobile app. Developed by Michael Sabel, MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery and Chief of Surgical Oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School (U-M), Breast Cancer Ally is “an information and symptom management tool specially designed [to help] patients through every stage of breast cancer treatment.” The app is available for use by U-M Comprehensive Cancer Care Center patients.
“This is disease-specific technology that helps patients navigate the multiple facets of medical care by delivering information and tools based on the appropriate stage of treatment,” U-M noted in a statement.
UAB’s partner in the Patient Care Connect Program (PCCP) is Guideway Care, a resource for personal guidance in cancer treatment and recovery. Guideway Care offers communication protocols and technology for assisting people following a cancer diagnosis.
According to UAB results, compared to non-navigated cancer patients the PCCP participants experienced:
· 55% less hospitalizations;
· 29% fewer emergency room visits;
· 60% less intensive care unit admissions; and,
· 45% reduction in Medicare costs.
“The PCCP is a model of navigation that supports patients throughout the cancer care continuum and may be a mechanism to extend palliative and support care more fully into the community,” wrote UAB-affiliated authors in a JAMA Oncology article.
“Overall, cost reductions were driven by substantial declines in hospitalizations and clinic-based services,” they concluded.
Ramona Colvin (standing) and Myeisha Hutchinson, patient navigators with UAB’s Patient Care Connect program, work together to help patients through their cancer journey. (Photo and caption copyright: UAB News.)
Healthcare Reimbursement and Reform
Insurance company programs intended to lower cancer care costs that operate concurrent with congressional lawmakers’ healthcare reform efforts are receiving increased scrutiny.
One relevant example of a payer plan aimed at increasing value is Anthem’s Cancer Care Quality Program. It enables participating oncologists to compare cancer care pathways and become eligible for additional $350 a month in reimbursements for each patient being treated.
“Private payers have been on the forefront of designing value-driven ways to pay for cancer care, but we’re not going to arrive at a satisfying payment solution any time soon,” stated Conway in the MedCityNews article.
Trends Can Guide Medical Laboratory Leaders
The findings of the AB/ACCC study affirm the important role that pathologists will have as precision medicine transforms cancer care. After all, it is pathologists who diagnose the primary cancer, and it is pathologists who conduct specialized testing to identify genetic mutations that would make a patient’s cancer vulnerable to a specific drug or therapy. Pathologists also have a role in monitoring the cancer patient’s treatment.
Thus, it is important for clinical laboratory leaders to acknowledge what their cancer care colleagues perceive as trends and topics of interest. Pathologists and medical laboratory leaders who provide services to oncologists and cancer patients should note these trends and related programs and research. Healthcare navigation and telemedicine applications, for example, could be ways for pathologists to collaborate with oncologists in outreach to cancer patients.