The lateral flow test market is having its day. Before the pandemic, the term “lateral flow test” was only known by people in the industry. Now, every last person on the planet knows what rapid diagnostic tests are.
So it’s no surprise that forward-looking lateral flow test providers are deciding what their next steps should be. And a question facing many is this: Does the future of lateral flow testing involve integrating with readers, to provide pinpoint accuracy? Or is it more about providing an easy, data capture solution for customers – that can pull results and associated data from millions of tests into real-time dashboards and reports?
The majority of lateral flow tests are currently used qualitatively – giving a simple positive or negative result.
However, some lateral flow tests can produce more detailed information or give more than two lines. These types of tests can only be read using a reader. This way, lateral flow tests can produce detailed, granular information about a person or animal’s state of health – or about substances in food and the environment.
But then there’s the big data side of things too – and lateral flow test providers are increasingly seeking out ways to integrate real-time reporting into their offer, particularly since FDA guidelines now stipulate that tests must be able to report results to state and federal authorities.
What is a lateral flow test reader?
A reader is a device that a trained professional can insert a lateral flow test into to get detailed, granular results. Without a reader, you get qualitative, yes/no results from lateral flow tests. The purpose of a reader is to give scientists and medical professionals a detailed analysis of a sample.
What is Transform®?
Transform® is a digital service that captures and manages lateral flow test results – and associated data – in real time. Transform® can be used to capture yes/no results – as well as more detailed results from a reader.
Its purpose is to give public health experts, employers, education authorities, food producers – and many other professionals – quick, accurate data insights so they can make informed decisions and act quickly.
Sometimes, precision is everything
Phil Groom is Chair of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association’s Digital Working Group – and Commercial Director at Bond Digital Health. He says: “Imagine a scale that goes from one to ten. One represents the faintest, barely-there line on a lateral flow test – and ten represents the strongest, clearest test line you can get. In lateral flow testing, 1-3 is problematic.
“Is it a positive test, or is it negative? If you’re using lateral flow tests qualitatively (interpreting them with the naked eye), then you would have to designate this test result as inconclusive.
“If you’re using lateral flow tests to test for HIV or malaria, you need greater understanding of the result. So by using a reader, you’d be able to get the detailed information you need to diagnose and decide a course of treatment.”
Big-picture data can be indispensable too
Phil continues: “With a pandemic situation, having real-time data available to public health authorities and governments – from millions of tests – will allow highly effective and targeted interventions.
“If you’re using lateral flow tests that come with a complete data solution, then you can see – in real time – which areas of the country have the highest levels of infection. Then you can have localised lockdowns, rather than locking the whole country down.
“Equally, if you’ve got limited resources, then you can see where to deploy them – because you know exactly where the greatest levels of infection are.”
“Or, if you’re looking to understand how your tests perform in the field under certain environmental conditions, or track whether you’ve got a faulty batch, data collection can help here, too.”
Transform® from Bond Digital Health offers exactly this type of functionality. Its app allows healthcare providers and individuals to upload test results simply and accurately. It allows lateral flow test developers to see how their tests are being used and identify training or performance improvements. And it manages millions of results simultaneously – so that everyone from public health experts to large employers can see what’s happening on the ground, via dashboards and heat maps.
Phil adds: “There are so many applications of the technology. They go way beyond infectious disease control. For example, let’s imagine you’re a milk producer and you have tankers travelling between farms.
“You know you can’t exceed a certain level of antibiotics in the milk. Let’s imagine that the maximum level of antibiotics is 10. The first farm has a level of two, which is fine, so the tanker fills up. The second farm has a level of five – so again the tanker fills up. But then the third farm also has a level of five. Cumulatively, this would take the tanker over the limit, and the milk might have to be dumped – which is bad for the environment and for the farms and the company.
“So imagine instead that each farm tests their levels using lateral flow tests. Then they capture their results via Transform®. Back in head office, a controller can see which farms have which levels of antibiotics in their milk. Once the tanker has visited the second farm, they can divert the tanker to a farm where the antibiotic levels are no greater than three.”
But precision and data don’t have to be mutually exclusive
The precision of readers and the big data opportunities of a solution like Transform® both have significant potential for lateral flow test providers who are considering the next generation of their product portfolios. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision.
Phil says: “The beauty of Transform® is that we can integrate reader capability into the platform to provide accuracy and real-time data at scale.
“And it’s all available right now, as a subscription, so lateral flow test providers don’t have to spend millions on R&D. Innovation and premiumisation of products can be achieved in a very short space of time with Transform®.”
Want to see Transform® in action? Book a demo today.