How can your business get a health testing programme set up?
By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening
Business continues to have to adapt to the realities of the pandemic and customer-facing businesses, in particular are having to handle a lot right now.
Businesses need to re-open and also need arrangements in place so that staff, customers and visitors are protected. You probably already have a good supply of PPE, plus information about how to control infection and clean areas. You are OK for now, but this is only today, what about next week, next month? How will you know when your risks increase and you need to take different steps? Will you be able to notice a new source of infection in good time? This is where regular and methodical testing can help.
It is important to understand that testing can only help if it is effective, and that means being part of a concerted effort with a systematic plan.
Right now, it is a confusing topic and good advice is hard to find. Until the government offers specific guidelines, you need to use your common sense and do the best you can.
You need practical steps you can take to manage testing in your SME. Let’s review what is required.
First of all, the best advice is still to ask staff to monitor symptoms and be aware of what additional risks each staff member may be exposed to. For example, are they living in a communal environment like a house-share, are they part of a large family with most members working and using public transport, do they use public transport themselves to come to work? All of these will increase their risk. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t come to work – it’s simply something to be aware of and bear in mind when working out your testing plan.
There are a number of issues to consider when setting up a testing programme and you need to be very careful about some of the hidden implications. It is not simply a medical or clinical question, the personal privacy aspects are just as important.
When designing a testing programme ensure it is:
The testing programme must also avoid these pitfalls:
In addition, there are number of questions you need to ask when creating a testing programme:
Example questions, with possible answers, might be:
Why are you in isolation or being tested?
If you have symptoms, did they start:
The timing of these questions and answers as well as the related test result is really important; each test is only effective for a very precise period. Test at the wrong time, and the results will lose their meaning. However, the combination of the test result in relation to timing of the symptoms is really meaningful. This is why it’s important to capture these together.
All of these questions need to be asked and answered. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that your current system for recording HR data is ready for the challenge, so a new system of Covid-19 testing is needed.
For example, Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager is a new software platform that manages the testing process, irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. By using a dedicated testing platform to manage the process, it will be much easier to track the results, know what actions to take, and ensure that everyone who needs to be tested is tested.
There are also some common myths that need to be busted.
There is some evidence that people with a BAME background may be at higher risk. This may mean that they need to be treated differently (for example, testing more regularly, or shorter intervals between tests), however it is essential that you avoid any form of discrimination.
So, how can you best manage this? My advice is to be open and transparent about why and how you want to manage the testing, and, if necessary, get some advice/training about sensitive communication with employees at risk.
Talk to everyone on your team about the reporting procedure if a member of staff is found to have Covid-19; how testing will change or increase if a customer or supplier reports they have Covid-19; and what actions will be taken if someone tests positive. These areas need to be considered and procedures decided in advance of the testing programme commencing.
It is no surprise that in a new situation such as Covid-19 there are legal issues to be clarified. To fulfil your duty of care as an employer it is important to get legal advice to avoid any conflict with employment law. You’ll needs specific advice, both on the legal and clinical aspects of the testing programme you’ll be introducing in your business. Combine this with detailed and well communicated action plans and you’ll be on the right track.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager software platform that enables testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. Functions include automated reporting at local and national level for bodies including Public Health, Community Health and Employers with data reporting into other systems, as required.
A separate module using questionnaire and risk assessment methodology enables local residents to self-report Covid-19 symptoms with automated reporting to local (or national) Public Health and the ability to automatically push out messaging specific to the individual with symptoms.
Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager is designed to adapt rapidly to fast changing requirements and is fully scalable. The Innovate UK grant enables Thomson Screening to utilise investments made in the core functionality of the company’s products used in the NHS, especially its SchoolScreener Imms product, to rapidly repurpose and deploy the software.