The following interview was with Jaswant Tony, CEO and Founder of GoMeyra, where we discuss the next phase of COVID-19 testing over the coming months and how labs should be preparing for 2021 now.
1) Q: Clinical Lab leaders also predict that when a vaccine becomes available, there will be a significant increase in antibody testing plus a need for rapid COVID-19 molecular tests, which won’t be available in sufficient quantities until late 2021. What should labs be doing now to prepare?
The need for all types of testing is going to increase, so the way labs can be preparing now is to look for solutions that can help streamline test processing.
Current systems are not scalable enough to process thousands of tests per day, which then causes a bottleneck issue. Labs and providers should be searching for solutions that automate their protocols in order to overcome this issue.
2) Q: Although vaccine(s) may be available by as early as Q1 2021, the mainstream public will not have access to vaccinations until the first line have received it (elderly, immune-compromised, healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers). How will the vaccine impact lab testing?
With a vaccine, I anticipate an even larger need for testing. Millions of people are vaccinated for the common flu each year, yet there is still a need to test for the flu when people come down with flu-like symptoms. This is the same for COVID testing.
Furthermore, there will be millions of people who don’t want to get vaccinated because they are concerned about the safety or possible side effects, so the demand for COVID testing will still be high well into 2021.
3) Q: Prior to the pandemic, the industry was already experiencing a clinical laboratory workforce shortage. For labs that don’t invest in automated solutions, how will their operations continue to be impacted in 2021?
With a limited workforce, labs will continue to suffer if they don’t implement a more automated system. They may have to stop doing COVID testing altogether because they can’t handle the overflow.
Many labs will be cutting corners to inaccurately report negative results in order to make more money. Employers and workers don’t want to see positive results because they want faster returns to work, so labs are falsely reporting negative results.
4) Q: There are so many test choices now for labs and medical practices (molecular, antigen) – which do you think will be the most efficient choice in terms of cost, efficiency, and effectiveness to curb the spread in 2021?
Labs still consider PCR tests to be the most accurate tests available because they provide the highest level of efficacy. Despite the introduction of antigen and other rapid tests, PCR tests are the preferred choice among labs, employers, hospitals and government facilities.
5) Q: Will mobile molecular PCR tests impact lab business in 2021 if there is no need for labs to process these tests?
The at-home tests are small-scale compared to what the most significant need for testing is, which is enterprise-level testing to get people back to work. We do not expect at-home and mobile PCR tests to negatively impact testing volumes at lab facilities.
With businesses coming back online, employer testing will serve as the largest incoming business for labs and become their main source of revenue, versus individual testing.
6) Q: How will labs handle the increasing need for pre-travel testing in the coming year?
Not all labs are able to process tests as quickly as people need for their travel requirements, so they will experience increased issues with bottlenecking and overflow as traveling returns. Because of this, labs will continue to raise prices for travel testing due to the demand for timely processing.
7) Q: What do you forecast attendance at live events will be like in the coming year? Will tests that essentially grant admission become a regular or mandatory practice?
We expect to see more and more mobile labs implemented at venues in order to do onsite PCR testing for live event admissions.
Large-scale venues and convention centers are already preparing to bring events back online with lab technology solutions that enable onsite testing and provide results tracking for management, attendees and guests.
8) Q: Beyond the COVID pandemic, what do you anticipate will be the highest priority changes needed in the lab testing industry in 2021?
The most significant need will continue to be automation, technology that enables rapid test results, and systems that allow electronic tracking and management of healthcare information.
About the Author:
Jaswant Tony is the CEO and Founder of GoMeyra.