A large panel of infectious disease experts has started to call on hospitals to halt its testing of all new admissions for COVID.
The results of a recently published study, which worked with 12 experts from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), made the argument that when hospitals make use of proper ventilation and masking procedures, the testing for the virus can only result in deleterious effects, including “delays in patient placement” and “postponement of necessary procedures.”
The study was officially published in the Cambridge University Press’ Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
“The use of asymptomatic screening is a unique yet resource-intensive tool that arguably has been overused,” stated the executive summary of the article. “Although it is imperative to prevent healthcare-associated spread of respiratory pathogens, we must critically assess interventions that, when added upon core layers of infection prevention, may not attain the intended impact and may have unintended consequences for patients and HCP.”
The experts also stated that there could be a time in which mass testing was needed, but that should not always be the first go-to option.
“Admission screening may be beneficial during times of increased virus transmission in some settings where other layers of controls are limited (eg, behavioral health, congregate care, or shared patient rooms), but widespread routine use of admission asymptomatic screening is not recommended over strengthening other infection prevention controls,” they stated.
The authors spoke about the various methods to cut the spread of the virus throughout hospitals. “Key interventions that are important to reduce the risk of respiratory virus spread in healthcare facilities include patient symptom screening, avoidance of HCP presenteeism, optimization of ventilation, environmental cleaning, hand hygiene, source control with masking, isolation of suspect and confirmed infected patients, and vaccination of patients and HCP,” they explained.
“In the setting of these layered hierarchies of control, the added benefit of asymptomatic screening is uncertain,” concluded the article.
The panel did make an exception for the pre-admission screenings for patients at risk of developing a serious form of COVID, such as those in for organ transplant or cancer patients, should be utilized.
“The small benefits that could come from asymptomatic testing at this stage in the pandemic are over ridden by potential harms from delays in procedures, delays in patient transfers, and strains on laboratory capacity and personnel,” explained Dr. Thomas Talbot, an epidemiologist working for Vanderbilt University.
In a study from back in May 2022, the Cook County, Illinois Department of Emergency Medicine looked into the effect of universal screening of patients with behavior health problems between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, and discovered that the current routine COVID testing forced patients to sit an additional 7.3 hours in area emergency rooms.