UnitedHealth Group Develops Calculator That Helps Schools and Businesses Simulate COVID Testing Programs

As schools and businesses weigh their options for tracking COVID-19 cases, researchers at UnitedHealth Group have developed an online calculator that these organizations can use to define potential testing programs.

The free tool allows users to simulate the financial cost as well as the likely number of false positives for several different test options and frequencies.

For example, if a school in a low spread area wants to model the cost associated with administering weekly polymerase chain reaction tests, they can enter this information to see an estimate of per capita expenditure as well as the likely number of people. infections in a daylight window.

Ethan Berke, MD, senior vice president and director of public health at UnitedHealth Group, told Fierce Healthcare that the healthcare giant is receiving questions from schools and other organizations about when and where to perform the tests. tests, but there is no one size fits all. solution to these questions.

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The calculator aims to make those decisions a little easier, as these organizations find the testing model that works best for them, he said.

“It’s not as simple as choosing the brand or even the type of technology, but you really have to have a strategy,” Berke said.

Along with the development of the tool, the UnitedHealth Group team partnered with a school in Washington, DC, to test the impact of cluster testing, in which students and adults who live close to each other were grouped into small groups.

In this model, all eight pod members are tested with the same test and, if they were positive for COVID-19, the entire pod was individually tested and quarantined. The program allowed the school to reduce the volume of testing performed while continuing to track and manage the spread within the population.

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The results of the pilot were published in the journal PLOS One. The team found that the pooling approach reduced the number of students transferring to distance learning.

Berke said the program was also simple enough that school officials could manage it on their own, leading to more independence as they kept their facilities open.

“It’s a very effective way to test when we expect a lot of negatives overall,” he said.

With the world almost two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Berke said it was not too late for schools and other organizations to find ways to mitigate and keep up with the spread. virus. These efforts are especially imperative, he said, as there is a significant drive this school year to maintain in-person learning as much as possible.

While the school year is open, there is still the joint COVID-19 and flu season to contend with, for example, he said.

“I think it’s probably not too late to think about the role of one of these mitigation strategies,” Berke said. “I think being prepared with these kinds of tools is going to be necessary.”

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