A recent audit of COVID-19 testing in Utah found inconsistencies in what is being reported about test turnaround time, with some testing labs reporting results almost four days after the sample swab was taken. The state average was found to be less than two days. The audit, performed by the office of the Legislative Auditor General, offered five recommendations for state leaders and health officials to improve coronavirus testing delay times, including working with labs to figure out ways to speed up the results process, creating a standard turnaround time for results and to making turnaround times more transparent.
The audit also found providers weren’t required to report the time from when they received a COVID-19 test result to when they informed a patient of the result. That muddied the real time frame that it actually takes Utahns to receive COVID-19 test results.
“We fully support their (Legislative Auditor General's office) recommendations and publishing testing turnaround times to increase transparency. We are confident the Utah Department of Health and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will collaborate and improve the process,” Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson said in a prepared statement together.
According to the report, the average test in Utah takes 38 hours, or 1.6 days, from swab to a result to be sent to a provider, but that number does range depending on the lab. For example, in a review of data from six labs from June 26 to July 16, it found it can take anywhere from 1.3 to 3.7 days for a result. Two of the labs that averaged results in 1 ½ days accounted for more than half of the test results.
Officials said the variation in time could be related to one lab having more tests to do than another. The labs weren’t identified in the report, but experts told auditors that tests outside of the Wasatch Front typically do take longer to process because it takes extra time to transport the samples.