Quest Diagnostics says COVID-19 testing turnaround time has increased by 50 percent, constraints on supplies

Nov. 18, 2020

A wave of COVID-19 cases is sweeping across the United States, stated Quest Diagnostics. As reported by The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA), “the surge in demand for testing will mean that some members could reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days. In cases where the number of specimens received exceeds an individual laboratory’s testing capacity, there could be an increase in their average time to deliver results.”

This wave is beginning to affect COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing including:

·        Orders for our COVID-19 molecular testing have increased by approximately 50 percent compared to the last week of September.

·         The average positivity rate of specimens across our served regions has also increased and is now above 10 percent, which limits our ability to pool specimens.

·         In addition, the laboratory industry as a whole is experiencing increasing constraints on supplies, including test kits and reagents on high-end platforms as well as pipettes and other goods needed to provide testing. We are in constant contact with our suppliers, which are working to produce these goods to meet increasing global demand.

As a result of these dynamics, our average turnaround time for COVID-19 molecular diagnostic testing is slightly more than two days for all patients and up to two days for priority patients. This compares to an average turnaround time of two days for all patients and one to two days for priority patients, which we consistently delivered from late August to last week.

While the increase is modest, assuming national trends continue, we expect COVID-19 cases and corresponding orders for testing to increase for the foreseeable future, which may cause turnaround times to grow. We are taking several measures to minimize this possibility.

We will continue to expand our physical capacity, with the addition of new testing instruments and related equipment.

We also intend to expand our lab referral partner program. And we will continue to strive to provide the fastest testing for priority patients, which includes those who are hospitalized, pre-surgical or receiving care in congregate settings, such as nursing homes.

Turnaround time for molecular diagnostic and antibody testing includes the time to transport a specimen to a Quest Diagnostics laboratory after collecting it at a patient service center or provider site to reporting results. Turnaround time refers to the expected number of days to deliver a test result for a specimen coming into our lab that day.

We have reported results of approximately 20.4 million COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests to patients and providers in the United States since we began to provide these services in March 2020. Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen a steady increase in demand and positivity rates, consistent with national trends. We continue to take measures to expand pooling and increase our physical capacity to address these dynamics.  

Our average turnaround time for molecular diagnostic testing continues to be two days across all populations and one to two days for our priority population, which includes hospitalized patients, individuals in long-term care (such as nursing homes), and presurgical patients.

Quest Diagnostics has the release.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.