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Beyond COVID-19 Testing: The Future of Viral Testing

By Dr. Jillian Harrington, PhD, MB(ASCP), HCLD/TS(ABB) on July 22, 2022

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably never drove your car to a testing site to pull up, roll down your window, receive a test, drive away and then get a result via email. The typical experience prior to 2020 was to go into a doctor's office to receive testing and diagnosis for any illness. But that's all changing. COVID-19 proved that traditional models were lacking in support and scalability and over the last few years the landscape of viral testing has evolved to include new models such as drive-through testing, mobile units, and pop-up testing sites.  

The Importance of Labs 

Among many things, COVID-19 changed the testing landscape by bringing the importance of laboratory testing to the forefront. It illuminated the need for laboratory personnel to perform much-needed testing and it also highlighted the fact that there are not enough testing personnel to support the level of testing needed by individuals on a day-to-day basis. Many hospital systems do not fund laboratory services to the level that is needed with personnel or equipment.  

COVID-19 was also challenging because of the shortage of supplies and testing reagents needed to support the levels of testing required. It pushed laboratories and hospital labs to work collaboratively to produce creative solutions to problems that had not been faced before. It also allowed for labs to coordinate into cohesive testing networks, something that also had never been done before to support the nation's needs.  

Nomi Health employee giving a nose swab to a drive up patient

Changes in the Testing Landscape 

The testing landscape has transferred from the traditional model of doctor office, lab, home into drive through testing and pop-up testing sites to support the testing needs. This was critical because it allowed for the massive testing that was needed while also serving to protect the much-needed healthcare workers and services in clinics and hospitals.  

This type of testing has many advantages including:  

  • Ease of collection 

  • Protects healthcare workers 

  • Efficient  

  • Inexpensive 

  • Easy for people to do on a break from work or with kids in the car 

  • Scalable 

  • Sustainable  

Couple getting a drive up COVID 19 Test

Beyond COVID-19: Testing for Other Viruses  

Now that we know this works for COVID-19 and there are several advantages to testing this way, what other viruses could be tested in a similar manner?  

Most respiratory viruses can be tested in this setup including Flu A/B, RSV and Strep. It could also expand to include basic care issues such as ear infections, conjunctivitis and skin rashes. Any care to include a sample that is easy to collect that does not need total privacy for collection works well with this model.  

Nomi Health has already expanded several drive-up and pop-up testing sites to include testing for Flu A/B, RSV and Strep. 

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in the healthcare industry and testing has been at the forefront. We learned that we do not need to visit a doctor's office every time we feel sick or need a test, these new models can be more efficient and convenient and alleviate already overloaded clinics.