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Original Research

Evaluation of a training program for device operators in the Australian Government's Point of Care Testing in General Practice Trial: issues and implications for rural and remote practices

Submitted: 4 March 2009
Revised: 2 June 2009
Published: 10 August 2009

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Author(s) : Shephard MD, Mazzachi BC, Watkinson L, Shephard AK, Laurence C, Gialamas A, Bubner T.

Mark ShephardBeryl MazzachiAnne Shephard

Citation: Shephard MD, Mazzachi BC, Watkinson L, Shephard AK, Laurence C, Gialamas A, Bubner T.  Evaluation of a training program for device operators in the Australian Government's Point of Care Testing in General Practice Trial: issues and implications for rural and remote practices. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2009; 9: 1189. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Introduction:  From September 2005 to February 2007 the Australian Government funded the Point of Care Testing (PoCT) in General Practice Trial, a multi-centre, cluster randomised controlled trial to determine the safety, clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and satisfaction of PoCT in General Practice. In total, 53 practices (23 control and 30 intervention) based in urban, rural or remote locations across three states (South Australia [SA], New South Wales [NSW] and Victoria [VIC]) participated in the Trial. Control practices had pathology testing performed by their local laboratory, while intervention practices conducted pathology testing by PoCT. In total, 4968 patients (1958 control and 3010 intervention) participated in the Trial. The point-of-care (PoC) tests performed by intervention practices were: haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and urine albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR) on patients with diabetes, total cholesterol, triglyceride and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol on patients with hyperlipidaemia, and international normalised ratio (INR) on patients on anticoagulant therapy. Three PoCT devices measured these tests: the Siemens DCA 2000 (Siemens HealthCare Diagnostics, Melbourne, VIC, Australia) for HbA1c and urine ACR; Point of Care Diagnostics Cholestech LDX analyser (Point of Care Diagnostics; Sydney, NSW, Australia) for lipids; and the Roche CoaguChek S (Roche Diagnostics; Sydney, NSW, Australia) for INR. Point-of-care testing in the General Practice Trial was underpinned by a quality management framework which included an on-going training and competency program for PoCT device operators. This article describes the design, implementation and results of the training and competency program.
Methods:  An education and training resource package was developed for the Trial consisting of a training manual, a set of A3 laminated posters and a CD ROM. Five initial training workshops were held for intervention practices from each geographic region between August and October 2005 at three centres – Adelaide (SA), Bendigo (VIC) and Dubbo (NSW). These workshops combined theoretical training in the principles and practice of PoCT with ‘hands on’ practical training delivered in interactive small group sessions. At the completion of training, practice staff undertook a written and practical competency assessment and received a certificate of competency as a qualified device operator. Following each initial training workshop, practice staff completed a short satisfaction survey. Five refresher training workshops covering all geographic regions were delivered during late August 2006, coinciding with the 12 month point of the live phase of the Trial. At the completion of the Trial in February 2007, device operators completed a further questionnaire.
Results:  Sixty device operators from 31 practices completed training and competency assessment as part of the Initial Training Workshop series. A further 20 device operators from 12 of the practices were trained in the 12 month period after the initial workshops; 19 of these staff were from rural or remote practices. In total 80 device operators comprising 74 practice staff and six GPs from 31 practices were trained and received competency certificates as part of Trial. In all, 19 device operators left the Trial either through personal resignation from an existing practice or because their practice withdrew from the Trial; the majority (84%) were from rural and remote practices. A total of 42 device operators from 25 practices attended refresher training in the second half of 2006. Results from the satisfaction questionnaire completed by device operators following the initial training workshops showed there was unanimous agreement that the posters were useful for the conduct of daily PoCT and practical training in small groups was satisfactory as a training method. The quality and appropriateness of the PoCT training resources and the workshop overall was rated as either good or excellent by all respondents (100% and 78%, respectively). The responses by device operators to the post-Trial satisfaction questionnaire found a high level of satisfaction with PoCT across all geographic regions. Device operators from remote practices had the highest satisfaction levels for quality of training, usefulness of the training manual, ease of use of devices, confidence in the accuracy of PoCT results and preference for PoCT over laboratory testing. The usefulness of the posters for conducting PoCT achieved the highest satisfaction rating among operators from all three geographic regions. However the highest staff turnover rates and the highest number of requests for training of additional staff were from rural and remote practices.
Conclusion:  The methods established for the implementation and delivery of training and competency assessment for the PoCT in General Practice Trial were appropriate and effective. Results of the evaluation showed rural and remote practices have a greater need for training and support compared to their urban counterparts and may require more flexible training options to cater for much higher rates of staff turnover.

Key words:  Australia, general practice, point-of-care testing, satisfaction, training and competency.

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