Accurate diagnostic test results in under an hour give patients and clinicians actionable information quickly, driving cost savings, efficiency, and better care
Choosing a medical test sometimes feels like deciding between speed and reliability — rapid PCR delivers on both, delivering fast, actionable results providers and patients can trust at the point of care. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the power of rapid PCR by helping hospitals, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, events and even schools quickly track infections and curb spread. Following this recent embrace, the stage is set for rapid PCR to be more widely used for other infectious diseases, such as influenza, strep throat, sexually transmitted infections, and more.
Below are 5 ways rapid PCR can transform population health by benefiting patients, providers, and health systems as a whole.
1. Reduce costs by offering reliable results while you wait, minimizing accuracy concerns and decreasing the risk of sample handling issues
Rapid antigen tests are less reliable than PCR tests , which can drive up costs when questionable results create a need to retest. For example, the CDC’s Antigen Test Algorithm for Community Settings recommends symptomatic patients undergo confirmatory testing with a molecular test, such as PCR, following a negative antigen result . By starting with a sensitive, accurate PCR test from the beginning, healthcare systems and patients can avoid the costs associated with a second test.
Using send-out lab services introduces risks that samples could be lost, misidentified or improperly handled in between collection and processing , all warranting a repeat test. While many PCR tests require an approved, dedicated lab to process samples, rapid PCR done at the point of care under a CLIA Certificate of Waiver eliminates this need. With fewer sample handoffs and no transport required, point-of-care solutions decrease the risk of retesting after a sample is lost or mishandled.
2. Streamline operations and reduce costs with point-of-care testing that requires limited space
By delivering fast results right where testing is done, rapid PCR platforms help health systems use existing space and resources efficiently and cost-effectively. To start, point-of-care tests don’t always require large lab areas, complex and expensive equipment, or costly transportation of samples. These systems are also ideally designed to be easy to use with minimal training, allowing test sites to adopt them more seamlessly, bypassing the need for specialized personnel to deliver accurate diagnostic results and, in turn, keeping highly trained staff focused on other essential activities.
3. Protect communities through quick quarantine measures and the delivery of more coordinated care with fast, accurate results
Rapid, actionable diagnostic test results help prevent further community spread by allowing for quick quarantine measures. And since treatment options for both COVID-19 and the flu are dependent on prompt initiation of therapy, fast diagnoses also drive more streamlined individual care to promote better outcomes at the population level.
Dr. Nick Karr, founder of Citra Urgent Care in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, reinforced the clinical value of rapid PCR platforms putting results into provider hands quickly. “You don’t just want accurate information; you want actionable information. And how actionable is a result if you’re getting it days later? By then, the disease could be in a different stage, and the patient’s condition could have changed.” Dr. Karr also noted the improved continuity of care when an ordering clinician who sees a patient can get results directly and make treatment decisions, versus handing this responsibility over at change of shift with results pending.
“Providing high-quality healthcare comes down to the simple things – doing the right thing and putting yourself in the patient’s shoes. At Citra, our approach to the pandemic has been to say, ‘We’re all doing our best – let’s try to solve the problems together.’ Rapid PCR has been a big part of the solution.”
– Dr. Nick Karr, founder of Citra Urgent Care
4. Provide an accessible solution for telehealth services and communities that lack extensive laboratory resources
Populated urban areas are often considered centers of healthcare, but times are changing. Cutting-edge technologies and new digital capabilities are guiding the health sector toward medical service models that are more decentralized and focused on care that’s community-based or delivered through telehealth . Small, portable rapid PCR test platforms can help drive this effort by providing reliable diagnostic testing in areas where large medical facilities are either lacking or are unable to support local demand.
Pharmacies, hospitals and urgent care clinics have already leveraged the adaptability of rapid PCR systems and demonstrated the power of point-of-care solutions in expanding access to fast, reliable COVID-19 testing. These programs have laid the groundwork for rapid PCR to serve more applications and allow for comprehensive infectious disease screening in diverse settings.
5. With improved time to a definitive diagnosis, give patients the quick treatment plan they are seeking
Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist and Professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, is noticing a pandemic-related change in his patients’ wants and needs. People are not only more aware of the threat of disease, but they are also more knowledgeable about what treatment options are available once a diagnosis is confirmed. Armed with insight into what should come next, patients are looking for actionable answers, a fast plan, and access to effective medications without delay. “People know what they need, and they just want it,” Dr. Gupta said.
According to Dr. Gupta, fast, reliable point-of-care tests such as rapid PCR will play an important role in ensuring patient satisfaction and managing expectations moving forward. “In looking beyond COVID-19, I think rapid PCR is going to be a critical tool in giving people the answers they are looking for to take a more active role in better controlling their health,” he added.
While COVID-19 has strained the healthcare system in never-before-seen ways, the technological advancements and lessons learned along the way have also set us up to improve care moving forward. By leveraging the power of rapid PCR platforms at the point of care, diagnostic testing can drive community health models that not only deliver better patient outcomes but are also more efficient, streamlined, and cost-effective for healthcare systems.
“In looking beyond COVID-19, I think rapid PCR is going to be a critical tool in giving people the answers they are looking for to take a more active role in better controlling their health.”
—Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist and Professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
1. Khandker, S. S., Nik Hashim, N., Deris, Z. Z., Shueb, R. H., & Islam, M. A. (2021). Diagnostic Accuracy of Rapid Antigen Test Kits for Detecting SARS-CoV-2: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 17,171 Suspected COVID-19 Patients. Journal of clinical medicine, 10(16), 3493.
2. CDC’s Antigen Test Algorithm for Community Settings
3. Pre-analytical pitfalls: Missing and mislabeled specimens | PSNet (ahrq.gov)
4. Back to the future: Digital health-led decentralization of healthcare delivery | MobiHealthNews
Disclaimer: This Accula SARS-CoV-2 Test has not been FDA cleared or approved but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA for use by laboratories certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §263a, that meet requirements to perform high, moderate, or waived complexity tests. The test is authorized for use at the Point of Care (POC), i.e., in patient care settings operating under a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation. This test has been authorized only for the detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2, not for any other viruses or pathogens. The emergency use of this test is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the declaration is terminated or authorization is revoked sooner.
For Use under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Only. For prescription use only. For in vitro diagnostic use.