COVID Data ‘Hiccup’ in Mass. Due to Quest Lab Computer Delay
The laboratory reporting error that created a hiccup in COVID-19 data in Massachusetts at the end of last week was the result of a computer system changeover that delayed when test results were sent to some states but there was no delay getting results to patients, the company said.
The Department of Public Health's daily coronavirus data update was delayed a couple of hours Friday "due to a national laboratory reporting issue" and when the numbers were released, they came with a significant disclaimer from DPH that it had received a backlog of almost 10,000 test results from Quest Diagnostics that week.
DPH incorporated those results, which dated back to April 13, into the state's data retroactively, which provided a more accurate picture of COVID-19 activity over the previous 10 days but also meant that the number of COVID-19 cases reported by the state shot up by nearly 5,000 in one day.
A Quest spokeswoman said Sunday evening that the issue was between Quest and state public health departments, not between the lab and the patient or provider who ordered the test.
"Quest Diagnostics provides molecular diagnostic testing for COVID-19 using three different tests to enable large COVID-19 testing capacity. In mid-April, we modified our IT systems to support a single test code for these three tests. This change over in some cases slowed the delivery of reporting to state departments of public health," Quest spokeswoman Kimberly Gorode told the News Service. "This issue has not affected reporting of results to providers or the accuracy of the tests. This issue has been resolved and public health reporting has been completed for most of these cases."
Asked about the reporting error on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker appeared unconcerned and talked up Quest for its work to expand testing capacity in Massachusetts.
"This was a reporting issue to us, it was not a reporting issue to the institutions and facilities who requested the tests in the first place, and apparently this was true in a number of states," he said. Nationally, Quest performs "40,000 to 50,000 tests per day and I am of the mind that the information that needed to go back to the people who actually ordered the tests got there and got there in an appropriate time frame."
Baker added of Quest, "they've been pretty regular reporters to us in the past six weeks or so. I don't know exactly what the issue was."
Quest Diagnostics has processed more than 63,000 COVID-19 tests in Massachusetts and was an important player in the state's initial efforts to ramp up daily testing capacity here. In mid-March, Baker visited Quest's Marlborough facility and touted the changes the company had made to prioritize COVID-19 testing.
Last week, Baker announced that Quest would be part of a partnership with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and that the lab company plans to send 2,200 tests per day to 12 community health centers with the capacity to increase testing, including centers in Quincy, Brockton, Lowell, Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester, Provincetown and multiple sites in Boston.
"Quest has done a terrific job with a lot of our key partners," Baker said Saturday. "They have processed an extraordinary number of tests on behalf of, primarily, health care organizations."