Why Crowdsourcing Can Unlock the COVID-19 Test Bottleneck


October 5th, 2020

By Greg Stein


You are running a 103 temperature and struggling to breathe.  Despite your delirium, you drive to a COVID testing site where the line is so long that it stretches several city blocks.

And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

But the wait for the test is nothing compared to the lag to get test results. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, delays in test results were as bad as 19 days. By then, you have either checked into a hospital, recovered, or quarantined for absolutely no reason. Or worse, you gave up mid-quarantine, and infected your elderly neighbor.

There is a better way.

The solution is to distribute testing through the existing healthcare infrastructure – the primary care clinician.  Back in early 2020, when we knew far less about COVID-19, it was not appropriate for everyday clinics to handle a potentially deadly and extremely contagious disease.  But now it is time to shift the paradigm back to the way healthcare operates most efficiently – away from the emergency room and into the primary care setting.

How will the individual primary care Doc get test kits and receive test results when giant institutions such as hospital labs, public agencies, and major labs are doing everything they can just to keep up with demand?

The answer is crowdsourcing.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


There are more than a thousand labs around the country – many of whom have already stood up COVID-19 test capability.  From a couple hundred to a couple thousand daily test capacity, these labs collectively represent hundreds of thousands of daily test capacity able to be rapidly shifted to hot spots around the country. Labs can accelerate and automate the results process using innovative technologies such as the Shadowbox created “COVID-19 DX HUB”.

Now imagine you have that fever, but in a crowdsourced distributed site world.  You visit your doctor and she assesses your symptoms.  If a test appears appropriate, the sample is professionally collected in a controlled environment to reduce spoilage, and the order is made electronically while collecting all the federally mandated patient information.  The sample is then shipped overnight to one of the crowdsourced labs with results provided electronically within 48 hours – enough time to provide clear clinical direction relative to the outcome of the test. Simple, safe, and accurate with no more crowds, long lines, or false results.

Much better.