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What to Look for in a COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Partner

Bill Leigh

What to Look For in a Testing and Vaccination Partner

After about a year and a half of pandemic restrictions, everyone’s looking forward to getting back to normal activities. At the same time, though, COVID-19 cases are on the rise, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant strain. The best way to safely bring people back to work, school, houses of worship, sporting events, or other large gatherings is to make it easy for people to get vaccinated and get tested whenever they see the need. To do that, you need an experienced COVID-19 testing and vaccination partner.

Navigating the confusing mix of test modalities, public health reporting requirements, and the diverse needs of large, partially vaccinated populations is something you wouldn’t want to manage on your own. But testing and vaccination providers are not all the same. Choosing the right one can make a comprehensive program easy to administer. Choosing the wrong one can lead to headaches, confusion, and a waste of resources.

Here are some things you should look for in choosing a COVID-19 testing and vaccination partner. Our perspective is based on our experience deploying large-scale healthcare programs during and prior to the pandemic.

Premier service, end-to-end support

When it comes to rolling out a comprehensive COVID-19 testing and mitigation strategy, you should expect a lot more than just a sales transaction. Some providers talk about their comprehensive solution, but lack an experienced customer success team to help you implement the program. As the pandemic continues to evolve and the testing and vaccination landscape matures, it’s getting more challenging to design, implement, and manage programs that can scale and flex with the changes in regulations and viral spread.

When you’re evaluating a testing and vaccination partner, don’t just assume these resources exist and have the necessary soft and hard skills for the job. Ask to speak with the team. If the company has a hotline listed on their website, give them a call. It’s critical that the front line of support is available, knowledgeable, and understanding. COVID-19 is scary. You don’t want your testing and vaccination partner to make it even harder. Personalized attention, bulletproof logistics, clear communication, and follow-up are the hallmarks of a great partner.

Experience with large-scale programs

Make sure your testing and vaccination partner has the operational capacity to handle distributed services for an organization of your size. Although many COVID-19 service providers have been around for more than a year, not all have experience serving large organizations. The key differentiators here are scalability — including technology, lab capacity, frontline staff, and support staff — and speed. It’s one thing to find a partner that can set up a custom program for you with a few months lead time. It’s a very different scenario where you need to spin up a multi-location testing and reporting solution in just a few days. Color has demonstrated this ability over and over with organizations like the California Department of Public Health, San Francisco Unified School District, and several prominent businesses and universities. 

Integrated management software

Running a COVID-19 mitigation program requires more than just test kits and vaccines. Look for a partner with a software infrastructure that can be used to manage multiple testing and vaccination campaigns concurrently. This makes it much easier and more cost-effective to administer your program, especially if you have multiple locations or dispersed teams. 

The software infrastructure should also make the program easy for participants, with simple sign-up, easy scheduling, automated reminders, and HIPAA-compliant release of test results. Test results should also go to administrators and required public health authorities automatically. 

A comprehensive platform including data insights

An ideal COVID-19 testing and vaccination partner has the program architecture to manage large, distributed populations with varying testing and vaccination requirements seamlessly. In particular, make sure your partner offers HIPAA-compliant data dashboards, so administrators have real-time, integrated access to individual test results and vaccination status, as well as aggregated insights.

A true platform with built-in analytics tools will allow you to review your population data, look for trends and potential hotspots, and communicate compliance with OSHA, unions, and other concerned parties. This is crucial for large organizations, and Color is one of the few providers that can offer this. Color’s platform can also tie into health and benefits systems or even company directories for fast user onboarding and setup.

Support for multiple program structures and test types

There are many approaches to testing — such as pre-arrival, offsite, or at-home; routine on-premise; or emergency response only. Which one is right for you depends on a lot of factors, and your needs will likely evolve as vaccinations rise and budget priorities change. Make sure your testing and vaccination partner has a solid grasp of all the approaches to testing, and supports different testing modalities, including RT-PCR and RT-LAMP tests, rapid antigen tests, and pooled testing options. 

Certified labs with flexible testing capacity

At a minimum, a partner should operate their own laboratory so they can control quality and understand the full end-to-end process. Labs should be CLIA certified, and accredited by CAP. Ideally, in addition to having their own high-throughput capacity lab, the partner should have relationships with other accredited labs across the country for additional capacity and to ensure fast processing of samples. 

Before you sign up with any provider, get insight on how they actually process test samples. How do they track them end-to-end? What is their sample failure rate, and why? What percentage of samples are processed within 24 hours, on average? Where are their labs located, and what other types of tests do they run in those facilities? How do they protect against cross-contamination? How do they deal with lost, mishandled or mislabeled samples? 

In conclusion

As you develop your plans for bringing large groups of people back together, make sure you also have a testing partner that can help you keep people safe without causing frustration, missteps or even increased risk. Choose the right  partner and your group will feel confident and happy about getting back to normal activities.

Want to learn how Color’s services may work for you? Contact us today.

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