The winter flu season brings added pressure to emergency and acute hospital services. In the UK, children and infants account for more than a third of flu related hospital admissions since flu and respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV) can be particularly severe in children, particularly those with existing conditions such as asthma.
In our recent paper published, we report the results of a real-world evaluation conducted in a busy children’s hospital in central London. We assessed the impact and economic benefits of using a 90-minute point-of-care (POC) assay to test for influenza and RSV in children and infants admitted to hospital. This was done by comparing data collected from an acute paediatric ward during one flu season, when standard laboratory testing was used, with data collected from the same ward in the subsequent flu season, when the POC test was in use.
Results of the evaluation showed that when POC testing was being used, more children with flu received oseltamivir, the antiviral treatment recommended for the treatment of flu (an increase from 13% to 40%). Although there was no statistically significant difference in the average length of hospital stay (2 days in both cases), overall laboratory costs and reimbursement charges for hospital admissions were less when POC testing was in use, indicating that the POC testing meant that fewer laboratory tests, procedures and interventions were performed during admissions.
The results of the evaluation suggest that POC testing for flu and RSV in children admitted to hospital could be beneficial to the children and their families, and to the wider health system through the knock-on cost savings. It is possible that similar POC testing in hospital emergency departments, prior to admission, could be beneficial and this certainly warrants further investigation.
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