Delta Variant Impact on Lab Testing Volumes

  • Product Marketing Manager, XIFIN

The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant is increasingly severe. The CDC has determined this strain is nearly twice as contagious as previous variants and two studies indicate Delta patients are more likely to be hospitalized than those infected with Alpha or the original virus strains.1 97.4% of all U.S. COVID-19 cases stem from this variant.2

Infection numbers are rising rapidly. On August 11, the 7-day moving average of daily new US cases reflected an 18.4% increase over the previous week, reaching 114,190. This surge is 66.3% higher than the previous peak reached on July 20, 2020. The 7-day average for new hospitalizations reached 10,357 – a 29.6% increase over the previous week.3

How is this spike impacting lab test volumes?

The XIFIN Lab Volume Index (LVI), a widely used industry benchmark, offers a clear picture. The LVI synthesizes billing volume data into a measurement of testing volumes, relative to a pre-coronavirus testing baseline average.

With the LVI, users can see overall test volume patterns since the pandemic began, drill down to specific time periods, and review test volumes by lab segment (i.e., Pathology, Clinical, Hospital, Molecular, and Pain/Tox). The baseline metric equals the pre-pandemic weekly average for January-February, 2020. Data is considered representative of the overall industry, based in part on the inclusion of test activity for four out of the top five integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and 10 of the top 12 public laboratories nationwide.

The index clearly shows a dramatic spike in recent test volume data, consistent with the ongoing swell in COVID diagnoses. For the week ending August 15, COVID test volume equaled 68% of all pre-COVID test volume.  Just 5 weeks earlier, COVID test volume measured 27% of all pre-COVID test volume. In short, COVID testing increased 250% in just over one month. At the same time, routine testing has remained relatively flat, with volumes similar to those seen pre-COVID (104% for the week ending 8/15).

As expected, based on the jump in overall COVID testing, molecular labs are exhibiting the biggest volume increase. Specifically, COVID-19 testing volume at molecular labs in August is over 1.5 times higher than baseline routine testing volume, based on a weekly average comparison.

View the interactive Lab Volume Index for yourself and subscribe for COVID-19 related industry updates.

View Lab Volume Index




Published by XIFIN
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