Mass antigen testing: one laboratory shifts the paradigm

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Solis Medical Laboratory, LLC, a clinical reference lab that services long-term care facilities in Houston, Texas has outsourced their PCR testing and turned to mass antigen testing in-house for faster results.

"From day one of the pandemic, we’ve been focused on turnaround time," said Dr. Richard Drummond, technical director of Solis Medical Laboratory, "the geriatric population is high risk, and physicians are dependent on lab services to get accurate and definitive clinical data so they can make diagnoses and treat patients."

By using mass antigen testing, Dr. Drummond can quickly identify positive patients and isolate positive employees —which is critical in a fragile nursing home environment.

"I was pretty aggressive to get the antigen test up and running in-house because it has a 93.3% sensitivity and 100% specificity," he added. "It’s also half of the price of PCR tests, so with the combined savings, the fast turnaround time, and the increased sensitivity, I felt it was a good option for our lab."

Many labs are facing increased costs and a reduction in reimbursement. For that reason, the mass antigen test may be a cost-effective solution.

"Routine lab reimbursement rates have dropped so dramatically over the last 3-4 years, unless you’re a big lab, you’re not going to make it," Dr. Drummond said. "Our expenses don’t seem to be going down, but our reimbursements are really falling so having a decent margin on a test is really helpful to small clinical labs."

The antigen test may be a possible business opportunity for impacted laboratories that are experiencing a decline in routine laboratory testing, but an influx of COVID-19 tests – the tests which they are now relying on for the bulk of their business.

It’s for that reason that Dr. Drummond chose not to bring POC antigen tests into his lab. He also saw that for POC tests, the sensitivities were too low.

"If you have 84% sensitivity, that means 16 of those positive patients are going to test negative," he explained. "In a nursing home, where the stability of patients is critical, you can’t run the risk of spreading infection because you falsely report patients as negative."

A rapid and affordable mass antigen test can create the potential for frequent testing so that labs all over the country like, Solis Medical, can provide patients and employees with timely results. When implemented within communities, mass antigen testing will aid schools, institutions, hospitals and businesses all over the country to think about plans to reopen safely.

Disclaimer: This trend is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to promote any Beckman Coulter product or service.