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COVID-19's Impact on Lab Industry Testing Volumes and Dynamics — January 2021 Update

During a recent update on COVID-19's impact on lab testing volumes and dynamics, XIFIN Executive Chairman & CEO Lâle White said XIFIN is continuing to see a week over week increase in the overall volume of PCR testing following the winter holidays. Testing volume for December overall saw a slight downshift, mostly due to holiday activity.

"The base volume is really back for most of the industry," she said. "And we're seeing that base volume actually increasing as well. We're seeing that about 15% of the volume is a combination of COVID and flu, ordered together. So that continues to be holding in December and January. We haven't seen an uptick in antibody, but we do expect that once the vaccines are being rolled out that there might be more of a need for antibody, and we'll be following that closely to see how that shapes up."

White, who joined colleague Kyle Fetter, XIFIN Chief Operating Officer, as featured speakers on UBS' January Expert Event, also pointed out that:

  • Hospital volumes have come back stronger than any other sector
  • Molecular volumes are doing well
  • Genetic testing is continuing to increase with more testing in the clinical industry and hospital base

As far as volume through 2021, White said the industry expects a decrease in volume during the second half of the year when more vaccines are in play. Conservatively, the volume will likely be 30% to 50% of what they are currently.

Another factor affecting volume in 2021 will be the PCR test itself, which will continue to see demand despite ramp ups in other types of testing and the presence of vaccinations.

"There are a lot of point of care testing and other things that general COVID testing will shift to," said White. "There are reasons to do PCR because of the environment that we're in, which make the PCR continue to be a fairly important test. We're talking about the introduction of two mutations that are now coming across the United States, and more are expected. And so, we do see the PCR having a long-term role, but not at the current volumes. We expect to see a downtick, obviously, in the second half of this year. But we still think that there will be a fairly good demand for PCR testing for a while."

Listen to full recording here.

Fetter said there are a couple of other factors in addition to the PCR testing profile to watch: the rollout of the vaccine, which would impact PCR-based testing, and cold weather, which had a significant effect in Q4 2020. He said people remaining indoors for prolonged periods has been associated with the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Other topics discussed during the one-hour call include:

  • How the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted diagnostic volumes, mix, and reimbursement for a variety of diagnostic providers (hospital, regional, reference, and national providers)
  • The key factors that will impact COVID PCR and serology testing volumes in 2021, including new platforms/instruments, direct to consumer tests coming online, and expectations for PCR and serology testing demand as the COVID vaccine rollout continues
  • The financial conditions of the variety of diagnostic providers and how the COVID-19 outbreak might impact industry dynamics (national labs, hospital labs, and independent labs), including genetics/infectious disease testing, M&A, and insourcing/outsourcing decision-making
  • Insight into reimbursement dynamics for COVID PCR testing (Medicare, Medicaid, and Commercial) as well as industry efforts with regards to PAMA

Interested in weekly reporting of lab testing volume data across the US? Visit our Lab Volume Index today.
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Published by XIFIN
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