Non-invasive screening tests for preventive healthcare

The advantages of non-invasive biological samples – a healthcare professional’s view

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After starting her studies in information and communication technology at the Häme University of Applied Sciences, Eveliina Pajunen wished to connect her engineering studies with her previous experience in the healthcare field. Before starting her engineering studies, Eveliina completed studies in nursing and worked for several years as a registered nurse, mostly in emergency room settings. In addition to her extensive healthcare background, Eveliina also has experience from the chemical– and pharmaceutical industry. 

Currently Eveliina is finishing her engineering degree with an internship with us at Aqsens Health. During her internship she will help model the collection process of biological samples for screening tests, as well as develop a customer-friendly user experience based on her practical experience and knowledge from the healthcare world. Eveliina’s diverse academic background and work experience provide an interesting perspective on biological samples, and below she shares her thoughts on the advantages of non-invasive, biological sampling. 


Reliable and safe sample collection

For the majority of nurses collecting samples is a routine part of their job, whether they work as a district nurse or at a university hospital. Reliable and safe sample collection is always the result of comprehensive instruction, and the most important part of sample collection and management is the strong identification of the patient. 

One of the major advantages of using biological samples like saliva, urine, and fecal samples, is their safe collection. First of all, collecting biological samples is safe for the health care worker because there is no risk of needlestick injuries or exposure to bloodborne infectious diseases. Needlestick and sharps injuries are still an everyday occurrence for health care workers in Finland. When processing the bloodwork of a hepatitis B-positive patient, the risk of infection for the health care worker may be anywhere from 20 to 30 percent. 

Finding an access site for sample collection does not take nearly as much time with biological samples when compared to invasive procedures. Collecting biological samples does not require the patient to undress to the extent invasive procedures do, and sample collection is also possible in less-equipped spaces because the room temperature or lighting are not as crucial. 

The collection of biological samples also requires less medical equipment. All samples regardless of sample type must of course be properly identified. However, the collection of a saliva sample only requires a suitable sample container, while the minimal requirements for an invasive sample are a tourniquet, sample tube, needle and syringe, disinfectant, gauze pads, adhesive tape, regular gauze, and protective gloves. And if the sample collection does not succeed in the first try, a new set of the same medical equipment is needed. 

Non-invasive, biological samples are often considerably easier to store than invasive samples. After collection biological samples stay viable longer than blood samples which have to usually be further processed within two hours of collection. A urine sample stored at +2–6 degrees celsius, on the other hand, can stay viable anywhere from 8–24 hours depending on the sample container. In addition, the preliminary results can often be reached faster when it comes to biological samples. 

Another important part of safe sample collection is the proper management of the waste material. The collection of biological samples does not require a separate waste container for needles and other sharp objects, because they are not necessary for the sample collection process. 


The patient’s point of view – a more comfortable experience

The  collection of biological samples is both a safer and a more comfortable experience for the patient. The sample collection is not painful and the risk of possible complications such as infections, developing hematomas or petechiae, and hyperventilation or fainting is significantly lower. 

When it comes to biological samples, another obvious advantage is their ease of collection. The collection most likely succeeds on the first try and there is no need for second attempts. Biological samples are also faster, simpler and easier when it comes to child patients who are often afraid of invasive methods, and for elderly patients whose blood vessels may be fragile or narrowed due to different medical conditions. 

From the patient’s point of view, giving biological samples also requires less preparation. For example, for a saliva or a urine sample, the patient does not need to fast for 12 hours and the sample can be collected with relatively short notice. 

Because the collection of biological samples does not require any medical training, with clear and comprehensive instructions the patient can often collect the sample independently. This process can be seen as more respectful towards the patient’s right to privacy and self-determination, because the sample collection process does not require the presence of a healthcare professional.

In summary, from a practical point of view non-invasive, biological samples are safer for both the healthcare practitioner and the patient, less likely to cause complications, lower in material costs, and more flexible when it comes to the place of collection, collection preparations, and storing. In the  future, the ability to use biological samples more widely in preventative healthcare and screening tests would bring with it a variety of new possibilities – like a home test kit to screen for prostate cancer, for example. But the most significant advances would most likely be seen be seen in the healthcare infrastructure of still developing economies that would no longer be limited by hygienic conditions or the lack of healthcare resources. 


Eveliina Pajunen

Customer Process Development

Aqsens Health Oy