NED will help Canada rapidly scale COVID-19 testing capability and improve testing accuracy
Tech startup AHead Simulations announced today the launch of a new training platform to help rapidly scale the number of qualified COVID-19 nasal swab testers across Canada while also dramatically improve the accuracy of COVID-19 testing procedures.
The Nasal Swab Educator platform (“NED”), developed in partnership with ENT specialists at Western University and London Health Sciences Centre Department of Otolaryngology is designed to be an optimal training device for all individuals, regardless of any prior medical experience. It is currently being piloted at eight COVID-19 testing locations across Ontario including COVID-19 test sites, emergency rooms, EMS stations and long-term care facilities.
The NED patient simulator uses a realistic internal nasal anatomy to teach the best practices of nasopharyngeal swabbing. Combining hands-on practice with educational video modules, NED enables proper standardized training to be administered at scale.
“We designed NED to address the two most significant issues facing COVID-19 testing in Canada; the quantity of testers available, and the quality of tests being performed,” says Rob Koch, Founder and President of AHead Simulations. “Through hands-on, standardized training, our simulator will allow rapid expansion of capacity and accuracy of each testing site, effectively reducing the strain on existing frontline workers who are currently overworked and on the verge of burnout.”
According to a recent study by the Annals of Internal Medicine, COVID-19 patients were found to have a one in five chance of getting a negative test result during their infection even if they were actually positive. If a swab test does not reach the nasopharynx it is more likely to provide a false-negative test result. False-negative results can contribute to further outbreaks of the virus should an asymptomatic individual who has falsely tested negative relax their social distancing measures. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a paper reinforcing that while COVID-19 testing capacity is an issue, the accuracy of the test is actually of greater long-term concern.
Using a patient simulator such as NED, new frontline workers can be rapidly onboarded and qualified with confidence, allowing provinces to scale up testing capacity more quickly and reduce the workload of site coordinators who currently provide training.
“Current guidance from public health for testing site training protocols are minimal, leaving it in the hands of individual test sites to seek out proper training online,” explains Koch. “Standardized training allows for greater accuracy at each test site, with consistent swabs leading to more accurate specimen collection. With NED, we can ensure swabbers are actually reaching the nasopharynx — considered to be the gold standard swabbing technique as recommended by Public Health Ontario and the Ministry of Health.”