Coronavirus Has Medical Labs Struggling For Business | KERA News

Coronavirus Has Medical Labs Struggling For Business

May 13, 2020

Joe Saad is a pathologist and the medical laboratory director at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. He said with the suspension of elective surgeries in Texas until late April and people staying home, there isn’t the same demand for routine tests.

“Overall, I would say we are down 20% to 25% in test volume for in-patients,” he said. “For the ER patients we are down closer to 30% to 40%, and for outpatients it’s down even more from that.”

Anecdotally, Saad said colleagues at large commercial labs are seeing big drops in volume as well.

All of the focus on testing for the coronavirus might lead you to think the companies that analyze tests are doing a lot more business, but that is not the case.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding that somehow labs are doing well by this, but that’s so far from the truth,”Jondavid Klipp, president of the industry newsletter Laboratory Economics, said.

Klipp finished a national survey last week of almost 180 labs of all kinds around the country. They say the coronavirus test is not making up for the loss in other business.

“This is one test that is booming for them, but the other 99% of their business has crashed,” he said.

In Klipp’s survey, over 70% of labs reported a decrease in volume of at least 31%. About half of respondents reported layoffs.

Big lab companies like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp revealed on recent earnings calls that they are experiencing demand drops of about 50%.

Not every lab is seeing the exact same drop in volume, however. Saad is also medical director of Prism Pathology, a private lab that analyzes tests for less-common diseases. The situation there is a bit different. People with rarer ailments are typically sicker, so demand hasn’t dipped as much for their tests.