Epidemiology society urges reduced COVID-19 screening at hospitals

Healthcare facilities should no longer routinely screen symptom-free patients for COVID-19 upon admission or before procedures, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America said Dec. 21.

Research shows asymptomatic COVID-19 testing added 1.89 hours to patient stays and cost more than $12,500 to identify one asymptomatic COVID-19 patient, according to a news release from the organization shared with Becker's.

Instead, healthcare facilities should rely on enhanced layers of infection prevention, such as universal use of N95 respirators when performing certain procedures, active screening of healthcare providers, unit layouts that reduce shared patient spaces and improved cleaning and ventilation.

"The small benefits that could come from asymptomatic testing at this stage in the pandemic are overridden by potential harms from delays in procedures, delays in patient transfers and strains on laboratory capacity and personnel," Thomas Talbot, MD, chief hospital epidemiologist at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a member of the SHEA board of directors, said in the release. "Since some tests can detect residual virus for a long period, patients who test positive may not be contagious."


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