New funding for point-of-care HbA1c testing

Friday, 26 March 2021

The Australian Government has announced new funding support for point-of-care HbA1c testing.

Over the next four years the Government will be investing $2.1 million to make it easier for Australians with diabetes to monitor their condition.

From November 1, point-of-care HbA1c tests will be listed on Medicare. This will fund approximately 190,000 tests, helping people manage their diabetes.

Diabetes is a growing health problem

Around one in 20 Australian adults live with diabetes.

The condition accounts for 11 per cent of all hospitalisations, which can result in a range of health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and lower limb amputation.

Monitoring the condition is vitally important and early detection and effective therapy can delay the onset and progression of diabetes complications, resulting in better outcomes for patients.

Monitoring HbA1c is important to good health

HbA1c is a blood test which shows how much glucose has been in the blood over a period of time. This is an important part of treating diabetes, as people with a high HbA1c level are at greater risk of developing diabetes-related complications.

Currently, HbA1c testing is performed in labs, which requires a referral, and a visit to a collection centre to have blood drawn. The blood is then sent to a pathology lab and results are provided to the referring doctor. The patient then has another appointment to discuss the results.

Point-of-care HbA1c testing

The point-of-care tests will be done in the doctor’s surgery, by an appropriately trained GP or specialist guided by relevant quality and safety standards, providing immediate results.

By listing this as a Medicare item, the Federal Government’s aim is to significantly reduce turnaround times, increase patient convenience and improve access, particularly for patients based in regional, rural and remote areas, and people with impaired mobility.

Lab testing will continue to play a critical role in the diagnosis and management of diabetes.

The National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council (NPAAC) is working with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) on an accreditation standard for the use of point-of-care testing in laboratories and non-laboratory settings to support the listing of this item.

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