In remote communities, barriers such as distance and transport limitations can make it difficult for people to access medical services regularly. Therefore, it is important that doctors are able to assess and treat patients as quickly as possible, as patients may find it difficult to attend follow up appointments.

Pathology testing can pose a problem in areas that are far away from a centralised lab where samples would normally be sent.

Providing on the spot testing can be a useful tool for doctors in rural or remote settings in order to have information at their fingertips that can help them decide how to treat a patient.

Rapid CRP is one such test.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produced by the liver that indicates inflammation in the body. CRP levels can be measured with a blood test, which is useful for doctors investigating a number of conditions.

The rapid CRP test is a handheld, finger-prick test that takes a small blood sample and gives a reading of the CRP level in the patient’s blood, it can quickly help a doctor differentiate between a bacterial infection that will respond to antibiotics and a virus that won’t.

Firstly, this is good news for the patient as it means the doctor can quickly take the next step, such as prescribing the necessary treatment or requesting further diagnostic tests, and they do not face waiting several days for test results.

Secondly, this is good news for the doctor because they have better evidence of what is wrong with their patient and whether antibiotics are appropriate or a different course of treatment is required.

Thirdly, this is good news for reducing antibiotic resistance because prescribing antibiotics only where they will be effective assists in maintaining their effectiveness for longer.

A paper published in the British Medical Journal reviewed several studies of the use of rapid CRP testing in Europe and found that its use could reduce antibiotic prescribing by 23-36 percent.

Programs in regional Queensland and Western Australia have used CRP testing to improve patient care in remote communities and reduce antibiotic prescription.

This demonstrates that in the right context and with the right quality measures in place, rapid CRP testing has a part to play in helping patients without ready access to a central laboratory, while also reducing the prescription of unnecessary antibiotics; good for patients, doctors and the wider community.