CorVel Corp., a third-party administrator that is coping with a growing share of workers’ compensation claims caused by COVID-19, is now offering at-home COVID-19 testing kits for its customers’ employees.
CorVel has contracted with 1health.io to provide test kits to workers who suspect they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. The 1health tests use saliva instead of the so-called “brain tickler” tests that require nasal and throat swabs. Employees deposit a small amount of saliva in vial that is sealed in a biologically safe envelope and returned to a testing laboratory.
David Lupinsky, vice president of digital health and innovation, said his company’s nurse triage line gets 300 calls a week from employees seeking access to COVID-19 tests. He said his company has been searching for an efficient method of testing large numbers of patients almost since the pandemic began.
“We’ve been looking at this for awhile,” he said. “There was no sense its doing home testing if you’re going to get 50% false positives.”
Lupinksy said his company has about 400 customers, which include self-insured employers and insurance carriers. He said the testing will be especially valuable to grocery stores chains and convalescent hospitals where employees are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. He said up until now, CorVel was forced to refer employees seeking a COVID-19 test to their own health care providers.
Confidence in saliva testing got a boost on Jan. 15 with publication of an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine that reviewed 16 studies on efficacy rates. The study found saliva tests identified people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 83.2% of the time — compared to 84.8% for tests done with nasopharyngeal (nasal and throat) swabs. The tests correctly identified persons who were negative for the virus 99.2% of the time, compared to 98.9% for nasopharyngeal tests.
1health, based in San Francisco, says on its website that it was the first company to receive an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration that allows it to distribute a COVID-19 test that uses saliva. The company says its “testing-as-a-service” business model allows it quickly distribute test kits and return the results within 72 hours.
CorVel said in a statement that it chose 1health because of the accuracy of its COVID-19 tests. Dr. Madelynn Azar-Cavanagh, medical director for CorVel’s telehealth program, said quality-control studies showed virtually no false positives and fewer false negatives than most of the other home testing kits. CorVel said in most cases, tests results are delivered in 36 hours.
Cavanagh said she took a COVID-19 test herself using 1health test kit. She said the kit contains a small vial and a funnel-like device that is used to extract saliva. After extracting a small amount of spit, the patient places the funnel in the vial and screws the cap back on. A gentle shake releases a reagent into the solution. The patient then seals the vial in a “bio-bag” that is placed in a return envelope that is sent via overnight delivery to one of 1health’s partner laboratories.
“The nice part of this tests is that it does pick up the variants — all of the variants so far,” Cavanagh said. She explained the 1health test keys into a specific protein that is common to all of the mutant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 that have been detected.
1health said in a press release that as of October it had contracted with more than 100 partners to provide its home testing kits. Customers include telehealth providers, hospital systems, corporations and government agencies, consumer brands and public health departments, the company said.
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