Pooled Testing: Diagnostic Quality, Lower Costs

When it comes to COVID-19 testing, most enterprises seek a low-cost, high-quality diagnostic test that delivers rapid results. While no current test checks every box, pooled testing comes close by expanding diagnostic testing capacity while reducing costs and turnaround.

The CDC defines pooled testing— also called pooling or batch testing— as combining nasal swab respiratory samples from several individuals and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of samples to detect COVID-19.

Pooled testing offers the reliability of a PCR diagnostic nasal swab test, but at a lowered cost and faster turnaround. Mobile Health provides pooled PCR testing at onsite COVID-19 screening locations. The results arrive within 24 to 48 hours of receipt of samples. This trumps the typical 10-12 day wait for individual PCR nasal swab results.

A Deep Dive

Pooling allows laboratories to test more samples with fewer testing materials, says the CDC. If a pooled result is negative, then all samples within the pool can be presumed negative for COVID-19. If the pooled test result is positive, each sample in the pool must be tested individually to determine which are positive.

The CDC recommends pooling only be used in populations where the number of positive test results is expected to be low—for example, in areas with a low rate of COVID-19. Also, pool sizes can be adjusted according to the community prevalence of the virus.

Schools, Businesses Jump In

The CDC views this strategy as useful for returning employees to the workplace. Also, its efficiency and affordability make it viable for other large populations, including schools, colleges, and universities.

Several universities already have adopted a pooled strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. For example, the NYDOH approved a pooled approach for SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Also, Duke University and the University of Alabama adopted batched COVID-19 testing programs.

Mobile Health COVID-19 Testing

Mobile Health, a trusted provider of testing for communicable diseases for 35+ years, offers individual and pooled PCR testing as well as rapid Point of Care (POC) tests within its COVID-19 Screening and Testing program.  The occupational health provider designs a COVID-19 testing protocol based on the client’s priorities, timeline and budget.

Companion COVID-19 services include a technology platform to manage daily employee health screenings and onsite temperature screenings and testing. Contact Mobile Health today for help with navigating the spectrum of screening and testing options.

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