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BackgroundThe World Health Organization (WHO) called for new clinical diagnostic for settings with limited access to laboratory services. Access to diagnostic testing may not be uniform in rural settings, which may result in poor access to essential healthcare services. The aim of this study is to determine the availability, current usage, and need for point-of-care (POC) diagnostic tests among rural primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province.MethodsWe used the KZN's Department of Health (DoH) clinic classification to identify the 232 rural PHC clinics in KZN, South Africa. We then randomly sampled 100 of 232 rural PHC clinics. Selected health clinics were surveyed between April to August 2015 to obtain clinic-level data for health-worker volume and to determine the accessibility, availability, usage and need for POC tests. Professional healthcare workers responsible for POC testing at each clinic were interviewed to assess the awareness of POC testing. Data were survey weighted and analysed using Stata 13.ResultsAmong 100 rural clinics, the average number of patients seen per week was 2865 ± 2231 (range 374-11,731). The average number of POC tests available and in use was 6.3 (CI: 6.2-6.5) out of a potential of 51 tests. The following POC tests were universally available in all rural clinics: urine total protein, urine leukocytes, urine nitrate, urine pregnancy, HIV antibody and blood glucose test. The average number of desired POC diagnostic tests reported by the clinical staff was estimated at 15 (CI: 13-17) per clinic. The most requested POC tests reported were serum creatinine (37%), CD4 count (37%), cholesterol (32%), tuberculosis (31%), and HIV viral load (23%).ConclusionSeveral POC tests are widely available and in use at rural PHC clinics in South Africa's KZN province. However, healthcare workers have requested additional POC tests to improve detection and management of priority disease conditions.Trial registrationClinical Identifier: NCT02692274.

Original publication





BMC health services research

Publication Date





Discipline of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2nd Floor, George Campbell Building, Science Drive, Howard College Campus, Durban, 4001, South Africa.


Humans, HIV Infections, Mass Screening, Cross-Sectional Studies, Attitude of Health Personnel, Pregnancy, Health Personnel, Ambulatory Care Facilities, Rural Health Services, Primary Health Care, South Africa, Female, Male, Interviews as Topic, Point-of-Care Testing