A leading Washington-based molecular diagnostics laboratory recently partnered with TestDirectly to support a program that enables the lab to provide COVID-19 surveillance testing at scale for the state’s department of health and its many school districts. Public health officials have lauded the program as a critical part of the state’s ongoing effort to provide a safe environment for in-person learning.
“We applaud the department of health for working so hard with school administrators throughout the state to safely welcome back students, teachers, and staff for in-person learning,” said the lab’s general manager. “Any of the state’s school districts can opt into the COVID-19 school surveillance testing program where we provide the training, supplies, and logistical support at no cost to them. In return, they get the fast and accurate test results needed to ensure a safe learning environment for all.”
How the Lab’s School Surveillance Testing Program Works
The lab first piloted its school surveillance testing program in the spring of 2021 with a school district comprising 30 schools and approximately 25,000 students. The pilot involved pooled testing, where COVID-19 specimens were processed in batches that included up to 25 individual swabs per specimen tube. The tubes were then sent to the lab for analysis after collection.
Parents and guardians were able to choose whether or not their children were tested. In addition, the identities of the tested individuals were kept confidential. Only the school district’s teachers had records of which students were associated with each pooled specimen tube that the lab sent to processing.
Surveillance testing is a method used to identify infectious diseases by testing a percentage of a designated population to identify potential outbreaks. This testing method is focused on the group rather than the individual, and it helps organizations like schools gather information to determine the organization’s overall health. With this form of testing, multiple specimen samples are taken and then pooled together as one batch sample. If the pooled sample tests negative, the entire group is considered negative. If the pooled sample tests positive, individual diagnostic tests are then conducted to determine the source of the virus that was detected in the original pooled sample.
“Pooled testing is a good way to accomplish a lot of tests economically and efficiently in a school setting,” added the lab’s manager.
TestDirectly’s Role in the Lab’s School Surveillance Testing Program
The lab teamed with TestDirectly to streamline its collection, testing, and reporting processes, and the benefits of this partnership were evident during the pilot program. The lab processed and reported a weekly average of 5,000 pooled specimen samples with a turnaround time of fewer than 24 hours for test results.
The lab’s partnership with TestDirectly began back in the fall of 2020.
“We’ve been able to dramatically increase productivity and the number of specimens we can handle with TestDirectly,” said the lab’s general manager. “It just works.”
The GM said the lab continues to hear positive feedback from school administrators enrolled in the school surveillance testing program, especially in terms of onboarding and efficiency. He added that the hardest part is getting teacher buy-in and getting them to change their routines.
“Once we get that, the rest, including the training of the teachers, is simple,” he said.
How TestDirectly improves School Surveillance Testing
TestDirectly is an all-in-one testing solution that eliminates the potential for human errors and reporting delays by replacing paper forms and manual processes with an electronic workflow.
“The platform covers all aspects of direct-to-consumer and organizational specimen collection, testing, and reporting,” said LigoLab CEO Suren Avunjian. “TestDirectly empowers school districts and fully supports laboratories at every stage.”
For the school surveillance testing program, TestDirectly also provides access control, which allows administrators to see results by facility, by staff, by students, or any other attribute. Additionally, the platform automatically delivers test results to school administrators and public health agencies.
“We are honored to have been chosen for this important school surveillance testing initiative,” said Avunjian. “TestDirectly is an effective and easy-to-use software platform that makes it easier for labs to support their local communities and provide testing solutions to prevent outbreaks that could threaten in-person learning.”
In addition to pooled testing support and other LIS functionality, TestDirectly core services include patient and family self-registration and scheduling, capacity management, specimen collection, specimen tracking and processing, billing, compliance, report generation, patient results notification (by email and text), automated report delivery, at-home specimen collection, and SMART Health Card and Common Pass integration (COVID-19 testing and vaccination verification via QR codes).
TestDirectly: Simplified Collection, Testing, and Reporting
TestDirectly is a direct-to-consumer web portal developed by LigoLab Information System that integrates with all laboratory information systems (LIS) and equips labs with the tools they need to quickly scale operations and offer school, organization, and employer testing programs. To date, TestDirectly and its network of laboratories and collection centers throughout the U.S. have collected, tested, and reported over 10 million COVID-19 cases.