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Considerations to Scale and Expand At-Home COVID Testing Programs

 

Process of coronavirus testing examination at home, COVID-19 swab collection kit, test tube for taking OP NP patient specimen sample, testing carried out, patient receiving a corona test

In 2016, direct-to-consumer (D2C) lab tests were becoming increasingly popular. As consumer demand for convenience and privacy grew, the market for at-home tests was predicted to surpass $350 million by 2020 — no small feat in a market that was only worth $15 million in 2015. 

Want to take a guess at the actual market size for at-home testing in 2020? It was $9.47 billion. That’s almost 30 times higher than the forecast. 

Yes, at-home tests for COVID-19 are driving part of that growth, but there’s increasing demand for other self-testing options — everything from diabetes, thyroid conditions and cholesterol rates to urinary tract infections, colon cancer and food sensitivity. While the debate over at-home testing has been around for years, posing the risk of inaccurate results against patient convenience and reduced expense, the necessity for accurate COVID-19 testing has proven to be the mother of invention. 

And that necessity is quickly becoming a requirement, with President Biden’s September 9th announcement that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require employers to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a weekly negative test. .

Back to school = Bring your (negative) test

School is back in session — and so is COVID-19 classroom transmission. Precautions for the safety of students and staff vary among districts, but the need for rapid testing is a commonly discussed thread. 

A number of school systems, colleges, and states are taking a proactive approach to acquiring their own testing methodologies. The success of their approach comes down to communication and preparation. We’ve seen continued confusion around when and how often people need to be tested. But we’ve also witnessed an uptick in the need for testing in the public education sector.

For parents, the option of at home testing means less hassle. Scrambling to book a last-minute doctor’s appointment or rushing the kids to a drive-through testing site are interruptions to an already chaotic schedule. It’s much easier to grab a test from the medicine cabinet and get results in minutes.

 

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Challenges with supply and demand

Scalability has been a major issue over the last 18 months. Many of our clients who were producing COVID test kits didn’t have the ability to ramp up to meet market demands. Last summer, we addressed six challenges surrounding COVID-19 test kit production. Over a year later, these issues are still impacting production:

  • Requirements for COVID-19 testing are rapidly increasing
  • Lack of widespread knowledge and resources to build kits effectively 
  • The future of COVID-19 testing was uncertain, not planned at scale
  • COVID-19 test kits have regulatory requirements
  • Shortages of COVID-19 test kit components
  • At-home test kits have inherent complexities

Although disruptions in the global supply chain have continued, these issues can be minimized by working with a supply chain partner for test kits who can leverage a large network for suitable substitutes and newly introduced materials. 

 

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Considerations for widespread COVID-19 testing 

Since the fall of 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have publicly advocated for large-scale COVID-19 testing programs. NIH leadership maintains that “widespread testing is necessary, important, and achievable,” citing three critical points:

  1. Testing saves lives
  2. Testing can be easy and quick
  3. Testing matters more in the communities affected the most

There’s no doubt that that need for COVID-19 testing programs is real, right now. But so are the tactical problems that companies, schools and communities face in scaling their efforts: multiple stakeholders, bottlenecks in kitting, fulfillment delays, manual tracking and misinformation can be significant barriers to driving adoption. 

To move forward effectively, the considerations bulleted below are somewhat essential and something we view through two lenses: supply chain and communications. 

Key considerations for an optimal supply chain to ensure fulfillment of at-home testing:

  • Centralized hubs with nationwide reach
  • Technology-enabled kitting strategy
  • ERP systems and demand planning tools
  • cGMP and HIPAA certification
  • Real-time data access

Key considerations for a thoughtful communication strategy to reach at-home testing participants:

  • Contact strategy and goals
  • Target groups with specialized messaging
  • Channel preferences
  • Testing frequency and results reporting

As people receive test kits at home, all of the communications regarding their test results are highly regulated. With any turnkey solution — from ordering kits to securely uploading test results and vaccination cards — security compliance is critical.

Give your COVID-19 at-home testing program a significant advantage with the right partner; one that considers not only the testing process but the strategic messaging that goes along with it. Not sure how your process measures up? Start by taking our assessment for an expanded view of the factors above. 

 

Ken Gammon is Senior Vice President of RRD Healthcare Solutions.