One Step Testing

Essentia Health is decreasing the amount of time it takes in the lab to determine whether patients have strep throat or the influenza virus. Currently, there is a one to two day wait on results. The new technology will allow doctors to see results in half an hour.

Sixty labs in the Essentia Health system throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin will be equipped with the new analyzers. The new testing will start in November, right in time for flu season.

This year, outpatient facilities will have access to the diagnostic system, meaning that patients won’t have to go to the hospital to get their test results. This means that molecular technology can be used in the clinical setting. It was previously only available in hospitals and laboratories. The number of negative tests is expected to be reduced because of the new analyzers.

The rapid one-step test was created in 1988 and is now what doctors use on an everyday basis. The technology involved with rapid testing has improved over the years as well, leading to more innovation within medical technology. Tara Ekren, a media relations specialist from Essentia Health, said that with technological advances there will be a time when the analyzers will produce results in less than half an hour.

In the past, it would take up to 24 to 48 hours for patients to get their results back, leading to a spread in the virus due to the wait to be prescribed antibiotics. Now, results for strep come back between 15 to 30 minutes for a positive result and 48 for a negative result, while it takes around 25 minutes for the influenza testing. The testing for strep is fairly simple, as a doctor will simply swab the throat and tonsils and send it to the machine where the Cepheid analyzers will detect the RNA and DNA of the virus. From there, antibiotics can be prescribed right away, lessening the spread of infection within the community.

Last year, Essentia Health tested over 40,000 patients for strep and just under 10,000 for the flu in their clinics throughout North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Idaho. This year, the number of strep tests is expected to stay the same, and the number of flu tests will depend on the virus itself.

Now that clinics will be able to use rapid testing, doctors will be able to treat more patients. Benefits of rapid testing include the limitation of these viruses spreading and it decreases the possible complications that can occur from the strep and influenza virus.

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