The most painful thing about taking a COVID-19 test isn’t necessarily the swab that practically extends to your brain (while that’s not fun, it’s not terrible). It’s the painstaking amount of time it takes to get the results back.
There are a few main reasons why lab results take so long, according to experts. First and foremost is the sheer number of people getting tests.
“As COVID-19 cases have surged in many areas of the United States, so too has the number of people requesting tests,” said Kristin Dean, the associate medical director at Doctor on Demand.
The rising demand has so far outweighed the number of labs and health care workers who able to process the results in a timely manner.
“There are still a finite number of labs and analyzers in existing labs that have the capability to the analyze a COVID-19 test sample,” said Karen Smith, system vice president of laboratory services at CommonSpirit Health.
“Efforts are underway nationwide to stand up more lab capacity and to procure more test platforms and reagents, which will help meet the demand and need for quick results in the coming weeks,” she continued. “COVID-19 is going to be with us for the foreseeable future and our country needs to invest in developing new labs and other testing capabilities.”
The process of transporting samples from testing sites and doctors offices to offsite labs can also cause slower results.
“After a health professional orders a COVID-19 test and a sample is taken with a swab, it must be transported in a sterile container to a lab for analysis. Tests are conducted in our own laboratories or in commercial, private and academic labs as well as state and county health labs,” Smith said. “Test results can be delayed for a number of reasons, including transportation if a sample has to be transported to a lab in another location.”
But with that in mind, here are some ways you might be able to get your lab work faster.