medRxiv. 2020 Jul 29:2020.07.26.20162453. doi: 10.1101/2020.07.26.20162453. Preprint.
Importance The diagnostic tests for COVID-19 have a high false negative rate, but not everyone with an initial negative result is re-tested. Michigan Medicine, being one of the primary regional centers accepting COVID-19 cases, provided an ideal setting for studying COVID-19 repeated testing patterns during the first wave of the pandemic. Objective To identify the characteristics of patients who underwent repeated testing for COVID-19 and determine if repeated testing was associated with patient characteristics and with downstream outcomes among positive cases. Design This cross-sectional study described the pattern of testing for COVID-19 at Michigan Medicine. The main hypothesis under consideration is whether patient characteristics differed between those tested once and those who underwent multiple tests. We then restrict our attention to those that had at least one positive test and study repeated testing patterns in patients with severe COVID-19 related outcomes (testing positive, hospitalization and ICU care). Setting Demographic and clinical characteristics, test results, and health outcomes for 15,920 patients presenting to Michigan Medicine between March 10 and June 4, 2020 for a diagnostic test for COVID-19 were collected from their electronic medical records on June 24, 2020. Data on the number and types of tests administered to a given patient, as well as the sequences of patient-specific test results were derived from records of patient laboratory results. Participants Anyone tested between March 10 and June 4, 2020 at Michigan Medicine with a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in their Electronic Health Records were included in our analysis. Exposures Comparison of repeated testing across patient demographics, clinical characteristics, and patient outcomes Main Outcomes and Measures Whether patients underwent repeated diagnostic testing for SARS CoV-2 in Michigan Medicine Results Between March 10th and June 4th, 19,540 tests were ordered for 15,920 patients, with most patients only tested once (13596, 85.4%) and never testing positive (14753, 92.7%). There were 5 patients who got tested 10 or more times and there were substantial variations in test results within a patient. After fully adjusting for patient and neighborhood socioeconomic status (NSES) and demographic characteristics, patients with circulatory diseases (OR: 1.42; 95% CI: (1.18, 1.72)), any cancer (OR: 1.14; 95% CI: (1.01, 1.29)), Type 2 diabetes (OR: 1.22; 95% CI: (1.06, 1.39)), kidney diseases (OR: 1.95; 95% CI: (1.71, 2.23)), and liver diseases (OR: 1.30; 95% CI: (1.11, 1.50)) were found to have higher odds of undergoing repeated testing when compared to those without. Additionally, as compared to non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks were found to have higher odds (OR: 1.21; 95% CI: (1.03, 1.43)) of receiving additional testing. Females were found to have lower odds (OR: 0.86; 95% CI: (0.76, 0.96)) of receiving additional testing than males. Neighborhood poverty level also affected whether to receive additional testing. For 1% increase in proportion of population with annual income below the federal poverty level, the odds ratio of receiving repeated testing is 1.01 (OR: 1.01; 95% CI: (1.00, 1.01)). Focusing on only those 1167 patients with at least one positive result in their full testing history, patient age in years (OR: 1.01; 95% CI: (1.00, 1.03)), prior history of kidney diseases (OR: 2.15; 95% CI: (1.36, 3.41)) remained significantly different between patients who underwent repeated testing and those who did not. After adjusting for both patient demographic factors and NSES, hospitalization (OR: 7.44; 95% CI: (4.92, 11.41)) and ICU-level care (OR: 6.97; 95% CI: (4.48, 10.98)) were significantly associated with repeated testing. Of these 1167 patients, 306 got repeated testing and 1118 tests were done on these 306 patients, of which 810 (72.5%) were done during inpatient stays, substantiating that most repeated tests for test positive patients were done during hospitalization or ICU care. Additionally, using repeated testing data we estimate the "real world" false negative rate of the RT-PCR diagnostic test was 23.8% (95% CI: (19.5%, 28.5%)). Conclusions and Relevance This study sought to quantify the pattern of repeated testing for COVID-19 at Michigan Medicine. While most patients were tested once and received a negative result, a meaningful subset of patients (2324, 14.6% of the population who got tested) underwent multiple rounds of testing (5,944 tests were done in total on these 2324 patients, with an average of 2.6 tests per person), with 10 or more tests for five patients. Both hospitalizations and ICU care differed significantly between patients who underwent repeated testing versus those only tested once as expected. These results shed light on testing patterns and have important implications for understanding the variation of repeated testing results within and between patients.