NHS to digitise coronavirus testing with new Scandit deal

Box containing NHS Covid-19 home PCR self-test kit
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

NHS Digital has signed a deal with augmented reality (AR) solutions provider Scandit in an effort to digitise the UK’s Covid testing process.

The Swiss software company will provide the NHS with a data capture service, which will be available for free to any hospital or NHS organisation involved in Covid test tracking, PPE tracking, or patient care, until 30th November 2021.

Specifically, the company will be deploying barcode scanning technology which will make it easier and faster for healthcare workers and volunteers to track and identify the tested samples. Test site staff members will be able to identify patients from a safe distance, avoiding the risk of contagion, by scanning a barcode on a booking form with the help of a smartphone.

After the samples are taken, they will be stored in a vial with a barcode attached to it, allowing staff to quickly scan it in order to ensure the test sample matches the booking ID and minimise mistakes.

The announcement of the deal comes days after the government proposed twice-weekly rapid Covid-testing which would be made available to everyone in England starting 9 April.

Rapid testing has so far been available to those considered to be most at risk, such as persons over 60 and with underlying health conditions, as well as people who are unable to work from home and frontline NHS staff. However, the government is now encouraging everyone to take regular tests, in order to prevent outbreaks as well as return to “a more normal way of life”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said that, due to one in three Covid carriers being asymptomatic, “regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks”.

“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly,” he added.

Due to the more regular Covid testing pitched by the government, the NHS is facing a significant increase in workload over the coming weeks. The process is to be facilitated with the help of Scandit-supplied technology, at no extra cost.

Commenting on the deal, Scandit CEO Samuel Mueller said that the Swiss software company’s tech “ensures that tests can be tracked quickly and easily”.

“It also integrates easily with smartphones, meaning that the NHS has been able to scale the number of testing sites and make it easy to deploy home-testing effectively. There is no acceptable margin of error. Our clinical-quality barcode scanning technology delivers a highly accurate read rate whether the scan is happening through a car window at a drive-in mobile test site or by someone who is self-testing at home,” he added.

Mueller said that Scandit has been “helping NHS Digital digitise their nationwide testing process since the start of the pandemic”.

“We have taken steps to support the NHS at every step of the way to integrate our technology into the complex NHS IT infrastructure seamlessly. We look forward to continuing this partnership and helping the NHS make it possible to deliver quick Covid-19 tests for every UK resident that needs it,” Mueller added.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.