The Joint Commission Receives CDC Funding to Study Rapid Influenza Tests in Outpatient Settings

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- The Joint Commission today announced that its Division of Quality Research and Measurement will study how rapid tests for influenza are implemented in outpatient medical settings including solo and group practice physician offices, community health centers, and acute care hospital emergency departments throughout the United States. The study is funded by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nancy Kupka, DNSc, MPH, RN, is the principal investigator.

Influenza kills approximately 36,000 people in the United States each year. Rapid diagnostic tests have been developed to test for influenza outside of the clinical laboratory. However, the current extent and quality of testing for influenza outside the clinical laboratory is unknown, especially in places such as physicians offices, emergency departments and community health centers. 

This project will examine outpatient settings that have adopted the use of rapid tests for influenza, including the types of rapid tests in use and how they are selected; the training and competency of individuals performing testing; the extent to which good laboratory practices and testing guidelines are being followed; the impact of use of the rapid tests on antiviral and antibiotic prescribing practices; and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of using rapid influenza testing.

The first phase of the three-year project began this month with plans to survey 5,000 outpatient medical settings to determine how rapid tests for influenza are being implemented.

Later in the study, 300 survey participants will be interviewed to identify the factors that influence the adoption of rapid testing for influenza, barriers to implementation and strategies to overcome the barriers in outpatient settings. This study is completely independent from The Joint Commission accreditation process.

The Joint Commission will convene a technical advisory panel to assist with the study, composed of public health officials and representatives from the following professional associations: The American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, National Association of Community Health Centers, American College of Physicians, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Surveillance is the most important tool for identifying new or reemerging infectious diseases or pandemics and establishes the scientific foundation for a public health response, says Jerod M. Loeb, PhD, executive vice president of the Division of Quality Research and Measurement for the Joint Commission.

Many rapid influenza tests are available for widespread use in outpatient settings such as physician's offices, clinics and emergency rooms, but the reliability of results from these tests is influenced by a number of variables that deserve examination, says Devery Howerton, PhD, chief of the Laboratory Practice Evaluation and Genomics Branch, Division of Laboratory Systems, National Center for Preparedness, Detection and Control of Infectious Diseases at the CDC. We are also interested in evaluating the extent to which these testing sites are linked to their local public health system.

Source: The Joint Commission