Clinical laboratories may find valuable resource in NIH-funded calculator tool that provides organization-specific testing cost estimates related to COVID-19 testing
The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) is an initiative that was launched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a threat to global health. According to the NIH website, the RADx initiative is “a national call for scientists and organizations to bring their innovative ideas for new COVID-19 testing approaches and strategies.”
In early December 2020, the NIH announced the development of a new tool that is funded through the RADx program. The tool is named the COVID-19 Testing Impact Calculator, and it was developed using RADx funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The COVID-19 Testing Impact Calculator is designed to be used by businesses and schools to calculate the cost of COVID-19 testing for their organizations and to determine potential strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Testing Impact Calculator Information
The COVID-19 calculator tool is unique in that it provides an individualized approach that can help specific institutions better understand their approach and the potential associated costs that are unique to their situation. The value that this free tool provides is in the individually tailored information that it offers.
“The NIH RADx initiative has enabled innovation and growth in the creation of new, rapid COVID-19 testing technologies,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, PhD, Director of NIBIB and lead for the RADx Tech program. “Using this tool, school administrators and business owners can quickly evaluate the cost and performance of different tests to help find the best match for their unique organization.”
The tool developed by NIBIB is a mathematical model-based calculator that produces customized scenarios for COVID-19 surveillance testing. The tool models four different testing methodologies that include both on-site and clinical lab-based testing and provides a unique testing strategy specific to the organization’s location, size, and other demographic factors. The calculations provided not only give meaningful data on the anticipated cost of testing, but also provide information about the expected number of false positives, true positives, and false negatives. The tool also calculates the number of staff that will be needed to collect and run the COVID-19 tests and the cost of these additional personnel.
This tool is also unique in that it allows businesses to examine various potential COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the impact that these strategies will have on the cost of testing. This allows businesses and academic institutions to not only understand the various testing strategies that they can implement, but also how to adjust their COVID-19 mitigation approaches to decrease the risk of COVID-19 and reduce the need and associated cost of COVID-19 testing.
How Clinical Laboratories Can Use New NIH COVID-19 Testing Impact Calculator
This tool is intended to help businesses or schools to reopen and resume operations in the safest and most cost-effective manner. “A false dichotomy is often perpetuated that we must either stop COVID or reopen the economy,” said Anette “Peko” Hosoi, PhD, Associate Dean of the MIT School of Engineering and Co-developer of the COVID-19 Testing Impact Calculator. “But we know a lot now about how this disease spreads and the answer is not an either/or proposition. We know what kinds of measures are necessary to keep things running and mitigate the spread while operating—maybe not under normal conditions, but certainly under functional conditions.”
Clinical laboratory leaders will likely benefit from the free access that exists to this tool. While this tool can serve as a valuable resource to organizations that clinical laboratories serve, clinical laboratorians can also use this tool when assessing how to best serve these organizations. Laboratories may be better able to estimate the cost of COVID-19 testing for these organizations and can develop deeper insights into COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
This tool can also be used by clinical laboratories to develop evidence-based testing strategies that are specific to an individual organization. Clinical labs may also want to use the estimated testing cost provided by the calculator to contextualize the price point of their offerings.
—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT