Published on October 16, 2018

Essentia Health leads the nation in rollout of rapid one-step strep and flu testing

strep and flu test analyzer

Essentia Health is one of the first health care organizations in the United States to roll out a large-scale rapid result testing system for Influenza A and B, strep and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in most of the communities it serves.  Now, when patients go to their local clinic to be tested for these common ailments, they will be given accurate results within a half hour, rather than waiting for a hospital laboratory to confirm an initial diagnosis.

“The Cepheid analyzers are molecular-based systems that detect the DNA or RNA of infectious bacteria or viruses in patient samples,” says Dr. David Carter, an Essentia Health pathologist.  “The tests are more sensitive than the traditional culture most people are familiar with.”  Essentia is the first health system to implement the complete line of Cepheid’s systems at one time including the Infinity, GX, and Xpress analyzers.

Hospitals have had the molecular-based testing equipment for years.   But just this year, the Food and Drug Administration waived regulations to allow outpatient facilities like convenient care and community clinics to feature the advanced diagnostic system.

“Diagnosis of infections traditionally has required a screening test followed by a confirmatory test, delaying diagnosis and patient care,” says Jodie DeMenge, a technical manager for the laboratory at St. Mary’s Medical Center.  “With this testing, we can provide complete results in one test. Faster results not only will help our patients get the care they need without having to wait for a hospital to confirm test results, it will also reduce the use of unnecessary antibiotics.”

Last year alone, Essentia performed more than 40,000 strep tests on patients across its coverage area of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho.  Essentia invested $2 million to purchase 60 Cepheid analyzers to place in hospitals and clinics across its service area. Dr. Carter and DeMenge add the rapid results will also ease crowded clinic waiting rooms as the influenza and strep season begins. 

Essentia will begin using the new analyzers in its outpatient facilities in early November. The molecular test is covered by most insurance companies.