The move towards pathology networks and hub-and-spoke models of medical laboratory service provision has significantly changed the flow of samples, and the impact of results on patients, over recent years. At the same time advances in technology, including rapid, simple to use molecular platforms, are changing the way microbiology results can be utilized. Like many other medical microbiology laboratories, we struggle with this balance for many different sample types and test requests. Work published by Neilson et al. in Journal of Medical Microbiology last year looked at this balance for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) genotypic diagnostics and suggested significant cost savings when a whole-healthcare economy perspective was adopted. However, as with all changes, implementing MRSA molecular diagnostics in different clinical settings must be considered carefully. We add to this discussion in our accompanying letter, detailing our experience (in a hub-and-spoke medical microbiology laboratory setting) of ‘rapid’ MRSA molecular diagnostics for day-case surgery where pre-operative assessment had been missed, exploring the impact and costs of these tests. We find no impact on patient care, but at considerable additional cost. We hope this will add a cautionary note to those considering implementing molecular microbiology diagnostics, and reopen the debate on where, in hub-and-spoke laboratory models, such devices should be situated.


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