New tool by CVS includes SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests but may pull test volumes away from clinical laboratories.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, employers are considering what measures they can take to maintain the safety of their staff and customers.
Adding to potential solutions for group COVID-19 testing needs, CVS Health announced June 24, 2020, the launch of “a comprehensive, customizable COVID-19 testing solution for employers and universities,” marketed as Return Ready. According to the company, this tool is a combination of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing, clinical protocols, and case-tracking software. CVS is also offering on-site testing and support.
In addition to Return Ready for employers and college campuses, the tool and testing system will serve the over 200,000 employees of CVS, the company also announced. According to CVS, “The organization can choose to offer testing on-site—and in a safe testing environment set up by CVS Health—or in the local community at one of the CVS Pharmacy drive-thru testing locations.”
COVID-19 and Population Health Management Focus
CVS’s SARS-CoV-2 testing product is expected to “evolve and adapt to include the latest COVID-19 testing technology and clinical protocols to meet their specific population health management needs,” according to Troyen Brennan, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of CVS Health. “Return Ready is one more way that we’re increasing access to COVID-19 testing options whether in the local community at CVS Pharmacy locations or where people work and study.”
In launching the new employee COVID-19 testing and monitoring tool, CVS joins several other large companies that have also provided employee testing tools and software. Google, Microsoft, Fitbit, and Quest Diagnostics have all announced COVID-19 related employee testing and monitoring tools. CVS is perhaps more widely recognized by the public as healthcare player. It is, however, too early to tell how well CVS’s employee COVID-19 testing solution will be received by the market and how it will be perceived in comparison to other offerings.
Unknowns Around CVS Point-of-Care Testing for SARS-CoV-2
According to a press release by CVS, the Return Ready testing menu “include[s] point-of-care testing with results in a few minutes or third-party lab processed testing with results in a few days.” It is unclear which point-of-care SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test or tests will be used or how third-party testing will be organized. CVS did not respond to a request for more information at the time this article was published.
CVS’s marketing materials have pushed point-of-care testing as the preferred testing method due to the convenience and speed of these tests. Clinical laboratories can provide education and guidance for public health officials and employers or college campuses regarding weaknesses in the reliability of point-of-care testing, and encourage them to pursue more accurate lab-based testing to acquire more meaningful data.
Clinical laboratories may find that the new tool released by CVS provides opportunities to develop strategic partnerships with CVS. While CVS has not released details of how third-party laboratory-based SARS-CoV-2 tests will be performed, there may be local needs for third-party testing that clinical laboratories could help fulfill, driving increased test volumes and more revenue.
—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT