UnitedHealth Calculator Helps Schools and Workplaces Design COVID-19 Testing Strategies

As schools and businesses return in person, developing a COVID-19 testing strategy that can quickly detect infections among every unique population will be a critical task in staying open. UnitedHealth Group has stepped in to support the effort with its COVID-19 testing strategy simulator.

The calculator, which is available for free from the research arm of UnitedHealth Group, allows users to test different scenarios depending on the type of test, population size, frequency of testing, timing, and more. It shows the estimated number of COVID-19 infections during the testing period, the cost of testing per person, and the number of potential false positives.

To develop the calculator methodology, UnitedHealth Group conducted a study to see which combination of test variables – such as test sensitivity, frequency of testing, pooling of samples, prevalence of disease, infections acquired externally, verification of symptoms and cost of the test – has resulted in an optimal surveillance strategy for schools and businesses.

The results were published earlier this year in PLOS A and demonstrate that frequent testing with “moderate or high sensitivity testing and minimal time to results” tends to work better for organizations. Pooling test samples has also proven to be an effective way to manage costs without compromising model performance.

UnitedHealth Group says its calculator can be used by various institutions to create a testing strategy best suited to their needs, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Organizations will need to determine what works best for them based on their population, financial situation and the prevalence of the disease in their community, according to the study.

“Our results demonstrate that it is not only essential to choose the right test in terms of performance in asymptomatic individuals, but to use the test in the defined population at the optimal frequency to reduce the risk of escalation of cases”, the researchers said in the study.

“Optimization is further improved at the population level through understanding the prevalence of the underlying disease and using pooling to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The “ideal” testing strategy must be balanced with the practicalities of cost per person to ensure sustainability. “

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

The United States has been in the midst of a new wave of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since early July. In the week of September 24, the country recorded an average of more than 114,000 new cases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a substantial jump from the end of June, when the United States reported a weekly average of about 12,000 new cases.

This wave of infection is primarily caused by the highly infectious Delta variant, which currently accounts for 98.4% of cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

Over the past year and a half, widespread testing has become a key strategy to manage the pandemic. While he hasn’t been able to end the pandemic on his own, experts call population testing an “invaluable guide” to tracking the viral spread and creating responses to the pandemic.

THE BIGGEST TREND

Figuring out how to safely run schools and businesses during the pandemic has been a key task since the early days of COVID-19. A number of companies have offered their services to help restore these institutions to normal.

Last year, Wellfleet and binx teamed up to offer universities their COVID-19 test kits to support community-wide testing.

Medical device maker Masimo has deployed its own return-to-work tool, the SafetyNet-OPEN app and connected devices. When used together, the system identifies users most at risk for infection, traces possible exposures, monitors users’ vital signs, and generates daily risk scores that prompt users to stay home, relax. get tested or be treated.

CVS has been a big name in the return to work space, first with its Return Ready offering that helps organizations test, filter and trace contacts among its population, and then with its partnership with Salesforce to create a single test. digital data-driven. and monitoring program.

Since COVID-19 vaccines became available in the United States, companies have also started creating tools to help manage vaccinations in schools and offices.

Eden Health has created a dashboard that allows employees to choose to share their immunization records. Buoy Health has developed its own tool that helps employers assess their workforce’s interest in the COVID-19 vaccine and design educational strategies around inoculation.


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