Background: The current COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant morbidity and death worldwide and produces significant socio-economic losses.
Objective: To assess the cost-benefit relation of implementing point-of-care COVID-19 antigen testing (POCT) in emergency rooms (ER) of German hospitals.
Methods: A deterministic decision-analytic model simulated the incremental costs of using the Sofia® SARS Antigen FIA test compared to those of using clinical judgement alone to confirm or exclude COVID-19 in adult patients in German ER, prior to hospitalization. Direct and indirect costs, with and without subsequent RT-PCR confirmation, were evaluated from the hospital perspective.
Results: With respect to ER patients, in base-case analysis, considering a COVID-19 prevalence of 15.6% and a hospitalization rate among COVID-19 suspects of 10.1%, POCT testing reduces average costs of hospitalized patients by €213 per tested patient if nasopharyngeal swabs of patients suspected to have COVID-19 are also sent to external labs for RT-PCR testing. In probabilistic sensitivity analysis, under all reasonable assumptions, implementing the Sofia® SARS Antigen FIA saves on average about €210 as compared to applying the clinical-judgement-only strategy. The major part of cost savings, €159 or 75.9%, is due to the POC test´s high specificity resulting in a 21-fold lower proportion of unnecessary bed blocking at the first day of hospitalization.
Conclusions: Using highly specific rapid COVID-19 tests in COVID-19 suspects at German ER, despite of their sub-optimal sensitivity, may significantly reduce hospital expenditure.
Keywords: Antigen testing; COVID-19; Cost-benefit analysis; Point-of-care; Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR); SARS-CoV-2.
Copyright © 2021 Sociedade Portuguesa de Pneumologia. Published by Elsevier España, S.L.U. All rights reserved.