The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released and distributed the first test for COVID-19 diagnosis — the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel — in February 2020. Since then, the United States has conducted more COVID-19 tests than any other country. As of February 8, there has been a rolling 7-day average of 3.65 tests daily per thousand people in the U.S. 

Molecular tests, such as real-time PCR, have been the most common laboratory tool used to detect cases of COVID-19. Another type, antigen (or rapid) tests, are highly-specific and work by detecting pieces of proteins found on viral particles. 

Overall, there are two general types of COVID-19 tests: diagnostic and antibody. Diagnostic tests are used to determine whether a patient has an active infection and needs to be quarantined to prevent further spread of the disease. Antibody tests detect antibodies that are produced by the immune system in response to an infection.  

Unlike testing and results delivery for other viruses, such as the flu, there are more complex challenges with COVID-19. Especially early in the pandemic, there was an unprecedented testing volume requiring fast turnaround. Some healthcare providers have been reluctant to invest in technology solutions for what they considered a temporary circumstance. Others struggle to manage COVID-19 testing and results delivery as new variants emerge. 

Despite the more recent effectiveness of mass testing, the U.S. has failed to set up programs at scale, in part due to challenges such as the complex logistics, follow-up services and infrastructure required for implementation. The healthcare industry also has been plagued by insufficient medical supplies, laboratory processing delays and a workforce shortage. 

Manual results delivery is unsustainable for healthcare providers, but utilizing automated text messaging to notify patients of the results of their COVID-19 test requires compliance with regulations of the Security Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA rules provide regulations to help ensure the privacy and security of health data, including data in motion or transmission (such as texting), and healthcare entities, including both providers and payers, that fail to comply risk severe consequences, such as costly civic and/or criminal penalties. 

Because texting has the highest conversion ratio of communication methods, utilizing HIPAA-compliant two-way text messaging enables healthcare providers to scale patient outreach through personalized patient communication, including quickly and effectively notifying patients of their COVID-19 test results. Plus, EHR integrations allow seamless workflows that scale their ability to reach most patients, especially targeted populations, without manual effort. 

Check out our recent webinar to learn how your healthcare organization can mitigate the challenges of COVID-19 testing and results delivery while leveraging population health strategy in patient communication. Also, find out how our vaccine management program can help you effectively and efficiently vaccinate your patients while protecting their privacy.