As workplaces across the country are reopening after the pandemic, top on the agenda is what employers are doing to ensure the health of their employees. When asked about their concerns about returning to the office, 60 percent of employees cite their personal health and being at higher risk of infection. While the US has made tremendous strides in the last year in beating this virus and administering more than 300 million vaccine shots in the US, but our fight against this virus is far from over.
Defeating COVID-19 will require an adaptive, sustained solution that includes both vaccination and continuous mass testing for the foreseeable future. We’re still learning to what extent vaccines will prevent asymptomatic disease, believed to be responsible for more than 50% of infections. We are also learning about this virus and its variants. Like the flu, new variants of COVID-19 will continue to emerge over time. As a country, we now understand the pain and impact that shutting down our cities takes and how hard it is to reopen. It is estimated that nearly 75 percent of interactions that lead to a COVID-19 transmission occur at work. Reopening must be done carefully and with every tool we have available. Onsite testing with immediate results is one of those important tools.
However, nearly 30 percent of employers are not doing testing, citing concerns over high costs and performance. There are options that offer immediate, accurate results for mass screening which don’t require employers to choose accuracy versus price. Importantly, not only is it the responsible thing for employers to oversee covid testing programs for the workplace, but research also shows that the majority of employees, nearly 65%, want their company to provide covid testing even after vaccinations are available.
Testing for COVID19 in the last year has demonstrated how rapid, reliable diagnostics can benefit individual patients and influence economic recovery. The ability to deliver lab-comparable tests on-site at the workplace could help control the spread of new variants of COVID-19, or other infectious diseases like the flu.
I see this first-hand in my role overseeing platform strategy at LumiraDx, a diagnostic company focused on point of care (POC) tests. POC testing means less time waiting for results, fewer opportunities to infect others or for the condition to worsen, having immediate results to help guide in decision making, and importantly, being able to do all of this without needing access to a lab. Combined, this can be transformational in how we treat and diagnose conditions. LumiraDx's next-generation technology enables high-performance, high-quality POC testing at speed. Before COVID, we had already developed a single diagnostic platform capable of accommodating multiple assays. We created this testing platform designed to go wherever the patient is, whether it’s in a hospital, medical office, pharmacy, or in other non-traditional settings such as schools, airports, or workplaces. When the pandemic hit, we saw a gap in testing and were driven to produce a highly sensitive antigen test that could reliably detect infectious individuals with results in minutes.
COVID has forced us all to rethink healthcare and propelled a leap-frog moment across medicine in diagnostics, so that we can provide easier real-time testing for chronic disease management and prevention, ultimately improving outcomes and lowering healthcare costs system-wide. This ‘crisis innovation’ is making lab-style tests in the community more affordable and could transform wellness and public health long after the coronavirus crisis passes. As the end of the pandemic approaches, it gives employers the opportunity to take this moment and not just get back to normal, but to redesign health systems including offering diagnostic testing in the office.
There is intense pressure to create a working environment post-pandemic where employees will feel safe and supported both physically and mentally. The pandemic challenges us to think broader, about how to best support employees, make them feel safe, and reassure them that their overall health is a priority.
A key set of themes arising in healthcare trends for employers post COVID are focuses on both preventative care and healthcare accessibility. On-site testing allows you to do both.
A major insurance provider’s research revealed that previously, employees knew what they should be doing to stay healthy, but many found it hard to change their behavior. COVID-19 has altered employees’ prioritization of their health and taking advantage of whatever benefits are available for them to remain healthy. For employers that means adopting a proactive approach, and being involved earlier in an employee’s health journey, instead of being reactive once an illness or condition has set in.
Complementing this is the demand for health care accessibility and bringing those preventative measures in house.
And while testing onsite is becoming common with COVID-19, the use cases are so much more. Providing diagnostics in the workplace would allow an employee who felt ill to simply take a test on-site to understand if it might be the flu, or COVID and then take the necessary measures to prevent spread to their colleagues, or their families when returning home. Onsite testing can also provide employees with an annual wellness screen for hyperlipidemia or diabetes at the workplace, and even monitor a chronic condition without having to make an appointment with their physician and take care of their health right at work.
The impact of providing these onsite diagnostics means healthier employees, a safer workplace, and an environment that promotes proactive healthcare, saving costs for both employees and employers down the line. Providing employees with accurate, immediate, and trusted health insights can transform workplace health.
- Wade, Nathaniel, Aspinall, Mara G: Arizona State University COVID-19 Workplace Commons https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/ASU-Workplace-Commons-Phase-2-Report-4-28-21.pdf
- Parameter Values that vary among the five COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios: CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html
- Returning to Workplaces Safely How Modeling COVID-19 Testing Can Help Employers Make Informed Decisions: https://cvshealth.com/sites/default/files/cvs-health-covid-19-return-ready-returning-to-workplaces-safely-white-paper.pdf
- 2021 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey https://www.eaglehillconsulting.com/insights/employee-views-vaccines-workplace/
- Investigating employees’ attitudes and barriers to self-care and well-being- Aetna: https://www.aetnainternational.com/en/about-us/explore/future-health/business-of-health-employers-overcome-personal-health-inertia.html