It's Not Enough to Test for COVID-19. We Need to Act on the Data, and Fast. | Opinion

One of the biggest advancements we've seen during the pandemic crisis is the development of rapid, on-site tests for COVID-19. Thanks to this innovation, the turnaround time for COVID-19 tests has been reduced from one week to one hour, or less.

However, getting test results is just half the challenge. It does no good to get a test result in less than 60 minutes if it takes public health agencies a week or longer to act on the information.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the crisis America is in danger of drifting into as rapid testing expands to tens of thousands of different sites across the country.

If we can't process and react to all these different COVID-19 tests in real time, then the likelihood of a second wave of the virus this fall, as well as another societal shutdown, increases dramatically.

I was alerted to this looming crisis by a health data management company called Persivia. The topic struck me as incredibly important. They agreed to sponsor a special, commercial-free episode of my "Newt's World" podcast focused on the topic.

COVID-19 antibody testing in Britain
COVID-19 antibody testing in Britain Simon Dawson - Pool/Getty Images

My guest is Persivia's chief executive officer, Dr. Mansoor Khan. A 20-year veteran of the software and health care industries, Dr. Khan is eminently qualified to discuss how to report data in real time—and how crucial it is to do so now for outbreaks. In fact, his company has helped some states better collect and make sense of testing data, and is recommending that a similar system be deployed nationally.

It's clear from our national response to the pandemic that we have to be more targeted. Incorporating real-time tracking and reporting can better ensure that people are safe and that we can keep our society open with minimal disruption.

Dr. Khan explains in fascinating detail how Persivia is working to improve real-time data reporting and how a nationwide electronic laboratory reporting service would give us an ability to gather and sort through information that would drastically improve how we fight diseases.

I hope you will listen to this week's episode to learn about an amazing breakthrough in health care—one that could be a powerful weapon against a second wave of the coronavirus, as well as future pandemics.

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The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.