Hospitals must stop mass testing for Covid, says influential panel of infectious disease experts


Influential Panel Tells Hospitals: Stop Mass Testing for Covid, It’s a Waste of Doctors’ Time and Money

  • Doctors said policy for asymptomatic testing increased ER wait times
  • The policy followed by many hospitals during the pandemic is also very expensive.
  • Testing must continue for people with compromised immune systems

An influential panel of infectious disease experts has recommended that hospitals stop testing all new admissions for Covid, which they argue is too costly for patients and providers.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America’s revised guidelines reversed initial guidance on the pandemic — which urged hospitals to closely monitor who comes into their doors with Covid.

But this policy has little or no benefit when other mitigation measures such as masking and adequate ventilation are followed and increases the cost burden on healthcare systems.

The panel included mention of studies showing that pre-admission screening can actually hinder a patient’s ability to get the care they need and does little to prevent transmission.

This shift comes as there are hopes that America’s flu, Covid and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) ‘tripledemia’ is finally subsiding.

An influential panel of experts, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, is now discouraging hospitals from costly testing, which increases wait times and hospital overcrowding, as well as the financial burden of keeping up with the twin epidemic.

These experts also noted that a hospital policy of universal Covid testing creates a ripple effect of delays in emergency departments with patients.

Having to be tested before receiving care leads to longer wait times in the hospital.

Facilities dealing with an influx of flu, RSV and Covid patients cannot afford to have an emergency department overcrowded with people who cannot access specialist care.

The panel wrote: ‘The use of asymptomatic screening is a unique but resource-intensive tool that has undoubtedly been overused.

The new guidance was published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

‘While it is imperative to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated respiratory pathogens, we must critically evaluate interventions that, when added to the core layers of infection prevention, may not achieve their intended impact and may have unintended consequences for patients and healthcare professionals. health.’

The new guidelines are sure to be controversial as they promote the elimination of one of the pillars of viral mitigation.

A wide range of hospitals across the US are testing new admissions, as well as patients queuing for surgery, in order to reduce the risk of complications.

But with the arrival of highly effective vaccines and antiviral treatments, hospital admissions for Covid have dropped dramatically compared to their levels this time, less than two years ago.

‘With increasing population immunity to SARS-CoV-2, milder clinical outcomes, greater access to effective vaccines and therapeutics, and greater published experience on asymptomatic screening, it is important to assess the impact of this intervention and how it should fit into the infection prevention programs moving forward,’ the group wrote.

Pre-admission Covid screening adds costly delays in providing necessary medical care to sick patients, studies show

A May 2022 study from the Cook County, Illinois, Department of Emergency Medicine reported that routine asymptomatic Covid testing prolonged patients’ time in the emergency department waiting room by an average of about seven hours. .

The policy is also expensive. Each test costs about $54 to administer. Testing every patient who walks through the hospital’s doors is a prohibitively expensive undertaking.

The Cook County researchers cited an encouraging study published by Spanish scientists that said screening only a quarter of new patients had no adverse effect on viral transmission.

The Doctor. Thomas Talbot, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University and member of the SHEA Board of Trustees, said: “The small benefits that could accrue from asymptomatic testing at this stage of the pandemic are outweighed by potential harms from delays in procedures, delays in patient care transfers and strains on laboratory capacity and personnel.’

The board, however, did not recommend a universal end to pre-admission screening, saying patients most at risk of developing severe Covid, such as organ transplants and cancer patients, should still be tested.