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Rapid Testing Leads to More Efficient Care for Influenza Patients

The University of Utah School of Medicine published study results on Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics Infectious Diseases Society that suggest diagnosing influenza with a rapid diagnostic test leads to more efficient care.

Researchers used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to identify children and adults diagnosed in the emergency department with influenza during the 2007-2009 flu seasons. Researchers compared the diagnostic tools with the proceeding treatment.

Patients diagnosed with the flu without using rapid testing received a prescription for antibiotics in 23 percent of the cases, which are not effective in treating the virus.

Patients diagnosed using rapid testing were prescribed antibiotics in 11 percent of cases. Additional laboratory tests, such as X-rays, blood tests and urinalysis, were also ordered less frequently.

Prescriptions for antiviral drugs were present among 56 percent of patients diagnosed using a rapid test, compared to 19 percent of patients diagnosed without rapid testing.

“When results of influenza tests are available to physicians at the ‘point of care,’ they use this information to provide more appropriate patient management,” Anne J. Blaschke, the lead study author from the University of Utah School of Medicine, said. “While other studies have shown that physicians can accurately diagnose influenza without testing, our results suggest that using an influenza test increases diagnostic certainty and leads to the physician providing more specific and appropriate care.”

Researchers said the study results suggest rapid testing has a significant impact on patient care and use of health care resources. They concluded that the development of more accurate and faster tests would further improve patient care for influenza and other respiratory illness.

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