This is the web version of The Capsule, a daily newsletter monitoring advances in health care and biopharma. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.
Have you had issues with getting a coronavirus test result back? From anecdotal evidence, I’ve certainly seen a number of people complaining it can take close to two weeks to get their COVID data as cases surge across the U.S.
But it’s not just a few special cases, as it turns out. One of the country’s laboratory giants, Quest Diagnostics, admits that it can take seven or more days on average for the firm to deliver a coronavirus test result if you’re not a priority patient. And Quest isn’t alone in its demand constraints.
“[W]e want patients and health care providers to know that we will not be in a position to reduce our turnaround times as long as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase dramatically across much of the United States,” wrote Quest in a statement. “This is not just a Quest issue. The surge in COVID-19 cases affects the laboratory industry as a whole.”
There’s a whole chain of events that have brought us to this point (and, to be clear, if you’re a priority patient, such as a health care worker who shows symptoms or someone who’s severely sick in a hospital, the turnaround is much faster).
I think of it as something like a set of falling dominoes where the dominoes are in an infinite loop. It’s a vicious cycle between a lack of coordination among federal, state, and local governments, limited supplies, limited workforces, and mixed messages on the enforcement of public safety measures such as wearing masks.
But what’s truly worrisome is the ripple effects of this cycle. A delayed response on a test makes it more difficult to take precautionary measures, which could in turn lead to more infections since so many people may be asymptomatic; a surge in cases puts constraints across the industry on everything from basic materials such as swabs and reagents to the technicians who can conduct the analysis.
How can we address this technical and supply chain nightmare? I’ll have some more on that for you soon.
In the meantime, read on for the day’s news.