COVID-19 Screening: DIY or Not?

As employers move to return employees to their worksites, a top consideration is keeping employees safe. We know that physical distancing works to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. But what about trying to prevent those infected with the virus from entering the worksite in the first place?

Too often, we’re seeing employers jump to a screening and assessment solution before building a detailed strategy. The first step is to determine whether to implement screenings and assessments in conjunction with physical distancing. Last week Dr. Mary Kay O’Neil blogged about the types of screenings and assessments employers are considering – symptom checkers, temperature checks, viral tests, antibody tests and contact tracing. If an employer decides to screen employees, they will need to determine where and how to conduct the screenings. This answer could differ by location or employee cohort and will directly impact which assessment to select.

In a recent survey of nearly 800 employers, 36% of all respondents (and 44% of those with 5,000 or more employees)expect to conduct some type of COVID-19 screenings or assessments as employees return to their worksites. Specifically:

  • 26% are planning to administer temperature screening onsite
  •  20% are planning to administer symptom questionnaires onsite
  • 4% are planning to conduct serology screening for antibodies
  • 3% say they will screen for the presence of the virus

For employers interested in a DIY approach, they will need to ensure the proper procedures and protocols are in place to administer the selected screening and protect employee privacy. They’ll need to determine how to acquire the screening supplies and personal protective equipment needed. Employees assigned to conduct screenings will need extensive training on privacy protocols and how to perform the work safely. Employers with onsite wellness centers are operating at an advantage by having access to trained medical staff and testing resources. Tweaking existing procedures and protocols will be necessary, but far less time consuming than building them from scratch. And, the wellness center can be an access point for sample collection as well as navigation and clinical advocacy.

For employers who aren’t interested in the DIY approach, there are a number of screening and assessment solutions on the market and that list is growing every day. These solutions typically fall into three main categories:

  • At home services – viral and antibody testing performed via home kits
  • Onsite services – temperature, symptom checks and viral and antibody testing performed at a worksite; onsite protocols and processes
  • Virtual services – app or online based temperature and symptom checks, contact tracing, and social distancing support available at the worksite or at home

This is a hot market and these vendors are aggressively selling their services and solutions. We recognize the need to move quickly while also proceeding with caution. There are a lot of new entrants in the market and many are selling testing that does not have FDA emergency use authorization. Additionally, some of these vendors have limited or no experience in managing sensitive personal health information. It is extremely important that employers are asking the right questions in this environment.

While this is a new situation for everyone, Mercer consultants have acquired a lot of experience quickly and can help companies structure an appropriate plan and select the best vendor partners for their unique situation.

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