CRS: Supply chain for testing still under pressure

The U.S. Congressional Research Service said in a recent analysis that difficulties with the supply chain for testing for the COVID-19 pandemic include FDA regulation and reimbursement and coverage of the associated costs, but also that the supply chains for nearly all testing components are still operating under considerable stress. The report is based in part on data obtained from the Association for Supply Chain Management and the American Society for Microbiology, which indicate that clinical labs in the U.S. are operating at roughly 40% of capacity, due largely to supply shortages. The shortages are also affecting testing for non-COVID purposes, while production and use of non-lab tests is similarly hampered by shortages. Swabs and other sample media are likewise prone to shortages, but the CRS noted the pandemic has placed more demands on human resources than can be offset in the near term. Congress may consider actions that would lead to greater visibility of any issues in the supply chain for any products needed during infectious disease outbreaks, according to the report.

AHRQ eyes provider-to-provider telehealth

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said it is looking for supplemental information to round out an ongoing review of the impact of telehealth-guided, provider-to-provider communication on rural health. Provider-to-provider communication is defined as any telecommunication-facilitated interaction among health care professionals with the objective of improving access, quality of care or outcomes for rural patients and populations. The review also includes any programmatic or fiscal support for such interactions, and includes services such as remote intensive care management, consultations for inpatient and outpatient care and remote rounds or group education and case review. The AHRQ is taking comments and submissions through April 1.

Health Canada emphasizes nursing homes in report on testing

Health Canada (HC) posted a report from a COVID-19 testing advisory panel which recommends that employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities must be prioritized for testing and vaccination, a recommendation that may require the involvement of both provincial and national government agencies. HC said the approximately 14,000 fatalities among residents of long-term care facilities during the pandemic make up nearly 70% of all COVID fatalities in Canada, and that more than 24,000 staff at these sites have been infected. Among those, 26 fatalities have been reported. The recommendations include that testing and screening strategies include a blend of rapid and lab-based PCR testing to prevent outbreaks and to provide protection for staff, essential caregivers and residents. However, the agency noted that testing and screening strategies may have to be tailored to the demands of individual nursing homes as province-wide plans may fail to account for critical aspects of local nursing homes.

Advamed, Georgia Bio sound off on EtO

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (Advamed) said it and Georgia Bio are collaborating to push back on the notion that the use of ethylene oxide (EtO) for medical device sterilization represents an undue hazard to communities surrounding sites that process devices with EtO. The sterilant is credited with processing more than 20 billion devices each year in the U.S., but Advamed and Georgia Bio said that only 0.5% of all EtO used in the U.S. is applied to sterilization of medical devices and supplies.