Omicron cast a dark shadow over the 2021 holiday season. With cases skyrocketing after families gathered together and spread this COVID-19 variant, America is in a dire situation. One way to combat the further spread of this virus is to improve COVID-19 testing, both in the amount available and their efficiency. Here are 3 main reasons why this is crucial.
There is a Shortage of Rapid COVID Tests
People searching for rapid COVID-19 testing have been frustrated to learn that there is a nationwide shortage. Public health experts attribute this to the U.S.’s lengthy authorization process. For instance, in December 2021, Lumiquick Diagnostics Inc. — a California-based company — shipped 100,000 rapid tests to Germany because the FDA had not yet given them authorization to domestically sell their tests.
Local stores have been unable to keep up with the demand for over-the-counter rapid tests. While the Biden administration has vowed to make 500 million at-home tests available for free, this has yet to happen, and shelves once lined with at-home tests at stores have been barren across the country since the Omicron surge. The sooner someone is able to detect that they have COVID-19 the less likely they will spread it unwittingly, so this shortage must be addressed in 2022.
COVID-19 is Spreading at Record Speeds
The Omicron variant has altered the trajectory of COVID-19 because of its ability to dodge immunity. Previously, people who were vaccinated or had prior cases of COVID-19 were still well-protected from the antibodies they had developed. However, the vast number of mutations in Omicron’s spike proteins have made these antibodies far less effective against the variant. While boosters have been shown to significantly increase protection against Omicron, breakthrough cases still persist.
Because Omicron is so immune evasive, the U.S. reported over 1 million new daily COVID-19 cases in early January 2022. With this record number, the U.S. also needs a record number of tests to help combat the vigorous spread of this highly transmissible variant in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike.
Experts Suggest COVID-19 Isn’t Going Anywhere
While many public health experts agree that the pandemic could end in 2022, it doesn’t mean COVID-19 is going away completely. Instead, they propose that the virus will become “endemic,” meaning that the virus produces a persistent, low, or moderate level of disease, much like the common cold or flu. Strains of influenza like the Spanish Flu of 1918 or 2009’s swine flu followed a similar pattern of evolution, and now that more evidence shows Omicron produces milder symptoms, we’re closer than ever to COVID-19 following in these predecessors’ footsteps.
While COVID-19 may become endemic, this doesn’t mean that it won’t pose a threat to people anymore. Here’s one sobering reason why: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu killed as many as 62,000 individuals between 2019-2020. Taking this data into account, COVID-19 will likely still present a concerning mortality rate, especially for those who are elderly or immunocompromised. As such, it makes sense to still have a testing system in place to prevent the spread of this potentially deadly virus moving forward, even in its post-pandemic phase.
Suggestions to Streamline COVID-19 Testing at Healthcare Facilities
If you’re a medical provider who offers COVID-19 testing at your facility or would like to in 2022, here are a few simple ways to help improve the process, which will ultimately encourage more people to get tested.
A Digital Check-in Workflow
The last thing people want to do if they’re not feeling well is fill out tedious paperwork on a clipboard when they arrive for their COVID-19 test. If they are able to enter all the necessary information prior to arrival, this will speed up the process. Better yet, this will ensure no pens or clipboards get traces of the virus on them.
Allow Online Scheduling
For individuals who don’t have the time or patience to be put on hold, online COVID-19 test scheduling is a great choice. Having an easy-to-notice button on the front page of a practice’s site frees up busy phone lines, which is key for making any healthcare facility run as smoothly as possible.
Encourage Social Distancing at Testing Sites
Going to a doctor’s office during a pandemic isn’t without its risks. The thought of going inside any public building — let alone one riddled with sick people — is enough to deter many from getting tested for the virus. Offer a workflow where people are able to stay in their cars and more people are likely to get tested.
A Digital Solution to Optimize COVID-19 Testing
DocResponse offers solutions to promote COVID-19 testing at any medical facility, regardless of size or specialty. This software allows patients to:
- Complete all necessary pre-registration before the visit through their digital check-in tool
- Schedule a COVID-19 test through online appointment scheduling
- Stay in their cars instead of crowd waiting rooms through their social distancing tool
Many COVID-related challenges face the world right now, one of which is not only the number of tests available but also the ease at which these tests are administered to people. Schedule a demo to learn more about how DocResponse has evolved to become part of the solution to these challenges in 2022 and beyond.