Patient Focus, based in Bryanston, distributes point of care products from well-known companies such as Samsung, PTS Diagnostics, Microlife, i-Sens, BioLytical, Trinity Biotech, Owen Mumford and Hemocue

Patient Focus Africa started as a ‘mom and pop shop’ 15 years ago with one blood pressure monitor. It is now a thriving company with a range of products. Claire Rush McMillan, Editor of Medical Chronicle, interviewed Jacques du Toit, the company’s MD, about the company and its products.

Patient Focus, based in Bryanston, distributes point of care products from well-known companies such as Samsung, PTS Diagnostics, Microlife, i-Sens, BioLytical, Trinity Biotech, Owen Mumford and Hemocue.

It also conducts point of care testing on patients referred by doctors, such as lipogram, 24-hour blood pressure monitoring, ABI (stroke detection, with pulse wave velocity). The pulse wave velocity takes 45 seconds and gives a full indication. Jacques du Toit, the company’s MD, is passionate about its offering. “The most important aspect of healthcare is preventative care. People with diseases need to be informed consumers. Diabetics should have the ability to choose what they want for themselves and healthcare needs to be based on what is best for the individual. We too often run it on an algorithm of fitting into certain slots and been given medication accordingly.

“The better we enable individuals to help themselves with ease of access to tests, the better their navigation of a healthier lifestyle. ‘Test now, know now, act now’ is the philosophy that point of care companies have in the US,” he said. In the case of diabetics, a test such as the A1c, was in the past a hassle for patients to go through. Now it is a drop of blood and the result is minutes away. Patients can have the test done at their pharmacy, at their doctor, even at home, with a disposable device. “Healthcare is becoming far more of a consumable and consumer enterprise. It was driven by the medical fraternity, then by the insurance fraternity, but soon it will be driven by consumers. They will decide where and how they will be spending their money on their health.

Du Toit predicts that preventative growth in the healthcare sector in SA, driven by easy access to point of care equipment. “There is an acronym that Prof Raal uses: ‘MEDPED – make early diagnosis, prevent early death’. You can only make early diagnosis if you have ease of access to these facilities.” He believes that pathology is also going to change dramatically. “It won’t disappear. It will, however, focus on far more advanced secondary and tertiary tests. Primary tests such as lipograms, liver and kidney function, A1c, will be done at point of care level at doctors. They may also be done at pathology – there is no reason why pathology can’t have point of care at their offices. It is all about driving greater accessibility to having tests done. “There are so many companies focusing on ways to alleviate the burden of diabetes. For example, long-acting insulins try to limit the amount of injectables, insulin pumps, ease of access to A1c.

Diabetes as a disease entity is exploding locally and globally. Diabetics need to get a better and an easier way of looking after themselves.” He explained that point of care technology must be connected. “You need to have a network, nationally, where you can get the trend lines of the patient and not repeat unnecessary tests. This is why connected point of care gives you a return on investment.

Loose standing point of care often leads to point of cost. “As a company we strive to introduce the most disruptive technology that is validated and accredited, and in the consumer’s best interests. A few years ago, we introduced the ‘lab in a bag’, which was accredited as the No. 1 Lab-in-a-Bag globally by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is designed for nurses to have meaningful screening campaigns to identify ‘hotspots’ for diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. This product, made in SA, travels globally – as far as Russia, Eastern Europe, Fiji and Solomon Islands. We are very proud to be the sole, exclusive partner to the WHO in the seven-year STEPS programme that they have,” he said. There are a lot of companies entering the point of care arena. He explained that it is important that whoever you choose as your point of care partner has validated products, good service, training and after-sales care. “You need to have a vertically integrated chain of service delivery. At Patient Focus, we offer a one-stop shop from purchase to training, after-sales service. If there is a problem, we offer all the technical support. We have a policy that equipment in warranty will be replaced in 24-48 hours, countrywide, he commented.

Point of care is directly correlated to the quantity of blood and the quality of blood. “You need to have free-flow whole blood, used with the correct lancet. There is a specialised technique that you need to adhere to. As an example, quite often, nurses test people on the ring finger, which occludes. If you use that finger, you have to start ‘milking’,” he commented. “We believe point of care adds value, if done the right way, by giving patients the necessary information on the spot, and giving doctors the ability to communicate the results immediately with their patients. That is why point of care has tremendous impact on the outcomes of the patient in terms of disease management.”

Prof Derick Raal does a lot of screening for accuracy and precision for Patient Focus, and the company uses his expertise to advise on brands. The company is moving into Africa, as well as the life insurance market. Accurate, instant tests for HIV, smoking and lipograms make sense in this arena.