Saratoga Hospital proves pooled COVID-19 testing works

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the need for COVID-19 testing continues, Saratoga Hospital has added an innovative way to test patients.

A team of Saratoga Hospital doctors and laboratory professionals have demonstrated that pooled testing for COVID-19 can save time, preserve scarce resources, and improve safety for patients and staff. The hospital decided to use the equipment they already have to rule out negative tests more quickly.

At a time when hospitals nationwide are hampered by shortages of testing materials, pooled testing has enabled Saratoga Hospital to test all patients before they’re admitted and isolate those who have the novel coronavirus. 

“If you put the test in the pool, and the pool was negative, that’s great. That means everybody is clear. On the other hand, if it was positive, you then have to test those patients individually. You then sort out who was the positive person in the pool,” said Dr. David Mastrianni Senior Vice President, Saratoga Hospital Medical Group.

The approach was first reported in Germany and the University of Nebraska. Saratoga Hospital pioneered pooled testing in the Capital Region with a pilot program in April. Since then: 

  • Saratoga Hospital has conserved over 2,150 test cartridges.
  • The New York State Department of Health granted emergency use authorization for Saratoga Hospital’s protocol, clearing the way for other facilities to adopt Saratoga Hospital’s approach.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its first emergency use authorization for sample pooling in diagnostic testing.
  • Results of Saratoga Hospital’s pilot program were published this month in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, the official peer-reviewed journal of the Society of Hospital Medicine.

“We believe pooled testing is a valuable tool during a time of limited resources,” Mastrianni added. “This strategy can be used by other community hospitals and may have applications for testing additional low-risk groups, including healthcare workers and clients of occupational medicine services.” 

Dr. Mastrianni said pool testing is key for reserving testing materials. He pointed to another potential benefit.

“We would have been out a long time ago without this type of testing. It really allows you to conserve resources, which allows us to test more in the hospital.”

“Like many others, we have observed that public fear of entering the hospital during this pandemic has caused delays in patients seeking care for non-COVID-19 conditions,” he added. “Our impression is that testing all admitted patients has been reassuring to our community and will help reduce those fears.”

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