March 3, 2022

Commit to Quality: Lessons Learned From the Search for Reliable COVID Tests

By Guest Contributer

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by Lynn Collins, owner, Southern New Hampshire Drug Testing, LLC

No other experience has taught me more about the critical importance of doing your research when it comes to purchasing testing products than my mission to offer reliable, safe and efficient COVID testing services to my clients.    

Back in the spring of 2020, I was sitting watching TV like everyone else and I would hear these reports about the problems with COVID testing: More tests were needed, test results were not always reliable and test manufacturing appeared to be a free-for-all.

One newscast reported that there was a nursing home that had about 300 false-positive results. At the time, I thought to myself, “How is that possible? What are they using for tests and who is doing the testing?”

I wanted to give my clients better options by offering COVID testing through Southern NH Drug Testing. And, I knew whatever test I picked, I did not want to have false negatives or positives – which could put my customers and community at risk.  

Having worked in the laboratory field in clinical chemistry and infertility for many years before starting Southern NH Drug Testing, I was confident that through my own research, I could find high-quality COVID tests.

All tests in the marketplace have minimum quality standards whether they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or through Emergency Use Authorization (EUE) – but that didn’t seem to be enough to prevent some of the issues.

Accuracy & Precision

During my search for a reliable test, my focus was on accuracy and precision.  

Accuracy represents how close a measurement comes to its true value. This is important because bad equipment, poor data processing or human error can lead to inaccurate results. Precision is how close a series of measurements of the same type are to each other. Measurements that are imprecise do not properly identify random errors and can yield a widespread result.

I also wanted to ensure that I would get results in a timely manner so that I could report to employers quickly if a worker’s test came back positive. I certainly, did not want an employee to go to their construction site and infect a company’s entire workforce, or a child to go back to school and make their classmates sick. It was an important health and safety issue.

I listened to webinars, talked to my colleagues who were offering coronavirus testing, and interviewed labs and manufacturers. Eventually, I came across Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL). At the time, CRL had two tests. A rapid test called CRL Rapid Response and an antibody test.

I asked for all the clinical testing information on the rapid test. The test is a self-administered saliva collection kit that is sent to the lab for testing. The test is an RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) which would give qualitative results for the detection of nucleic acid from the SARS-CoV-2 in saliva specimens.

The accuracy of CRL’s Rapid Response is 94% Positive/98% negative and their willingness to share information about process and data, put my concerns about accuracy and precision to rest.  

The test is self-administered and the kit comes with all the supplies needed to ship the sample to CRL. The instructions include a video on how to properly take the test, securely package it and send it to the lab so that there is little opportunity for error on our or the donor’s end.

TAT

The turnaround time (TAT) for test results is between 24-48 hours upon receipt at the lab. Both the donor and my facility are registered with CRL. The donor receives a text when the sample is received by the lab and when the result is complete. My facility is notified by email, and we log into the system to obtain a copy of the results which we then forward to the employer, DER or donor.

I was especially pleased that I invested time in doing my research, reviewing the data and finding a quality product when I was able to help a family from Africa visit relatives in New Hampshire over the holidays. Their airline required a negative result of a PCR test, performed within 72 hours from take-off. They also needed a report from the laboratory with very specific testing methods listed and information on the lab performing the test – all of which we were able to provide. Other customers like that I offer a service they can trust because it makes them feel more in control during an uncertain time.

This experience of finding a reliable COVID test has reaffirmed my belief that test providers and collectors need to do their homework when selecting a testing device or product. Ultimately, when clients can depend on your business for accuracy, precision and timeliness, they’ll keep coming back.

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