The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is aware of delays in the processing and reporting of COVID-19 test results and would like to provide information on the factors behind the delays.
The OSDH and other public health officials throughout the nation are dealing with outdated data systems and are often dependent on fax machines and manual data entry. These challenges lead to inconsistencies in movement of test data between health departments, clinics and laboratories.
“We have needed a technical solution since well before the pandemic,” said Deputy Commissioner of Prevention and Preparedness Travis Kirkpatrick. “The backlog we’ve experienced as the state has increased its testing capability has given us the opportunity to incorporate immediate fixes while moving towards developing a permanent solution.”
The health department has established contracts with in-state laboratories that require a mandatory turnaround time of 48 to 72 hours from receipt of a COVID-19 testing specimen. Currently, approximately 25% of the state’s COVID-19 testing occurs at county health department testing sites.
COVID-19 testing that occurs at urgent care clinics, health care provider offices, retailers and pharmacies are sent out of state and can take several days for the OSDH to receive results, typically by fax. The OSDH Acute Disease Services team manually enters test results as they are reported to the agency, which is time consuming and can delay the process of data reporting and contact tracing.
To solve these issues surrounding the efficient processing and reporting of test results, OSDH has programmed CARES Act funding at the direction of interim Commissioner Lance Frye.
“OSDH is highly focused on COVID-19 testing, effectively tracing cases and ensuring those individuals who test positive are quarantined as quickly as possible before they spread the virus to others,” said interim Commissioner Lance Frye. “We recognize the significant issues we’ve experienced in the past and are working to eliminate them by incorporating new technology to enhance the current system as we work towards a long-term solution.”