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Turnaround Time for COVID-19 Test Results

PCR Test Time Frame: How long does COVID-19 lab testing take?

Isolate or carry on? If you have taken a COVID-19 PCR test and are wondering how to proceed during the waiting period for your test results , it can be difficult to know how and when to re-engage with society.

While at-home antigen tests can be hard to find, sometimes very costly, and produce results that are not as accurate as PCR tests, it is understandable why more and more people have turned to PCR testing for a reliable result once exposed to the virus. As restrictions lessen and quarantines shorten, there is increasing interest in finding a more sustainable approach to ongoing COVID-19 testing as the world desperately tries to "get back to normal."

The Need for Effective COVID Testing

With the highly transmissible recent variant Omicron, it is more important than ever for patients to find a reliable approach to ongoing testing at their fingertips. Certified COVID-19 lab testing providers like IHD are in high demand, especially as some pop up locations across the country have not delivered the level of service or COVID-19 test results that patients desperately need during recent surges. In some instances, uncredible lab locations have even faced lawsuits for fraudulent behavior

When engaging with an accredited lab like IHD, it is important to understand the factors that influence how long it could take to receive reliable COVID-19 test results when working with a trusted partner. Those factors include the type of test administered, the volume of COVID cases at the time of testing, and the technology and method used to deliver accurate, timely results.

The Boom in Requests for Covid-19 Testing

On Jan. 11, 2022, the average for COVID-19 tests in the U.S. reached nearly 2 million a day, an increase of 43% over a 14-day period. Why did these numbers jump so drastically?

At the time, a mix of holiday travel, family gatherings, return-to-work, and the rapid emergence of a new variant, Omicron, surged new cases and drove a huge demand for COVID-19 tests.

Dr. Mina Kalantari, Ph.D, IHD’s Research Director and CSO, noted that Omicron was the biggest COVID breakout since the pandemic started.

“We saw more people than ever rush to get a test during the spike of Omicron last winter, but because we were better equipped than we had been at the start of the pandemic, testing turnaround times were delayed, but not as greatly as they were at the beginning.”

The Process of PCR Testing at a Lab

As we approach March 2022 and the second anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with a more clear understanding of testing offerings and reliable vaccines available, there are still concerns about other variants and mutations of the virus that could be on the horizon. Looking ahead, there are many reasons that COVID-19 testing will be essential for everyday use, whether it is due to exposure, experiencing symptoms, employment-related or travel-related.

To take a peek behind the curtain of COVID-19 testing, IHD has developed an approach to a reliable and efficient testing process that involves more than just collecting specimens for analysis.

It is important to have the right combination of dedicated lab team account managers alongside appropriate technology to implement an effective COVID-19 testing program that produces quick PCR test turnaround times. While the technology and equipment play a big role in PCR testing, the people behind the machines, test tubes and results make all the difference in quick and reliable test outcomes.

Additionally, the operational makeup of a lab may impact its PCR test turnaround time. IHD remains agnostic in testing platforms to maintain flexibility in meeting a variety of diagnostic needs, especially in emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. As a lab that conducts testing in-house for optimal control, we do not send our tests to third-party labs as some others do. Independent labs with in-house control can limit error, while enabling a tailored approach for partner and patient needs.

“Our staff at IHD put their patients first above all,” said Dr. Kalantari. “I witnessed a staff member of mine continue to come to work while her son was home with COVID. She made sure that he was alright, tested negative herself, and continued to take care of her community and provide results to those who needed it while simultaneously protecting her family - that’s dedication.”

Scientific Credibility in Covid Lab Testing

Authorized labs like IHD are certified under CLIA, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. Under CLIA, federal standards apply to all U.S. facilities or sites that test human specimens to assess health or to diagnose, prevent or treat disease. Even before the pandemic, IHD was providing the most reliable and accurate testing methodologies for those going through In vitro fertilization (IVF) or fertility testing. As COVID-19 surfaced, IHD then began offering testing in accordance with the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requirements during the pandemic.

The Technology to Produce Covid PCR Tests

COVID-19 testing methodologies include a PCR machine called a thermal cycler, which performs a series of heating and cooling steps to analyze a test specimen. PCR testing technology allows scientists to amplify small amounts of the RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the specimens into DNA, which replicates until any present virus is detected. This gives an accurate result and explains why PCR test results are not immediate.

Expected PCR Test Turnaround Time at IHD

While there are many factors that impact the turnaround time for PCR tests, IHD is committed to ensuring safe, timely and accurate COVID-19 testing and reporting within 2-3 business days of sample collection. In some instances we can produce results within 24-hours from collection of a swab to distributing the results, while other times including the latest surge, test results were delivered near the three-day mark.

Connect with IHD to Learn More About Covid Testing

After developing a test plan that is right for you, the IHD collector coordinates all logistics and returns samples to the laboratory. Testing is performed, and results are sent through a HIPAA compliant portal after 2-3 business days.


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