Quantity vs Quality. The RISKs Associated with Increasing COVID-19 Testing

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Respiratory Masks
Image courtesy of Mika Baumeister, Unsplash

We’ve all seen the news regarding the importance of increasing COVID-19 testing to help end the quarantine and get Canadians back to work. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam recommends Ontario should be testing around 60,000 people per day. In reality, testing numbers in the province were closer to 7,000 per day last week. Testing remains a major concern as we are now in Stage One of Ontario’s reopening program. With more businesses reopening every day, there is a growing risk of additional cases of Coronavirus.

To increase the number of tests performed per day we must consider two things:

Quantity of Tests

Frontline healthcare worker performing a Coronavirus-19 nasal swab test on a patient.
Image courtesy of United Nations, Unsplash

Ontario currently has lab capacity to test approximately 20,000 swabs per day. However, we are falling considerably short of that criteria. With Premier Doug Ford suggesting more Canadians go get tested, there will soon be a huge demand for nasal swab testing. It is also important to realize that most Canadians aren’t comfortable going into a hospital to get tested. They are afraid of being exposed to other potentially sick patients at the testing site.

A solution to this problem (and as to not completely overwhelm frontline healthcare workers) is to train additional people to test for COVID-19. Tests could be administered by healthcare practitioners like pharmacists, EMS and PSWs or by qualified individuals, such health and safety staff members in your workplace. In whatever form it is approached, training for COVID-19 testing must be universal, scalable, and provide those being trained with hands-on feedback to ensure they are using proper technique before seeing or administering tests to patients. And for COVID-19 testing, proper training is all about swabbing quality and accuracy.

Quality of Test

With an increase in testers administering the swab test, there is now a new risk that comes with having less experienced testers improperly performing the test. Improper testing can increase the number false negatives (which have already been speculated to be anywhere from 5% - 30% of tests in Canada to date). Given a false negative test, an asymptomatic individual could potentially go back into the community and spread COVID-19 to many more people in their network as they aren't aware they are infected.

The nasopharyngeal swab is considered the gold standard in specimen collection for COVID-19 as it contains the highest volume of the virus, thereby providing the most accurate testing possible. To ensure accurate swabbing of the nasopharynx, the swabber must be comfortable with the feel of the nasal cavity anatomy and use proper technique to ensure patient safety, comfort, and accurate specimen collection. A standardized, hands-on testing module could help solve both issues of quantity and quality to ensure accurate results to help Canadians get back to work safely and as soon as possible.


With an increase in testers administering nasal swab tests, it is essential to provide standardized, hands-on training to ensure accurate testing and avoid a potential outbreak in your region. No amount of testing will be of help if you aren’t obtaining accurate swabs, ensure your staff has the best training possible with AHead!

Stay tuned to hear how AHead Simulations plans to solve this issue with our newest innovation. Sign up for our newsletter to hear our latest developments!