Transformation in COVID Testing

Award-winning modelling shows the value of analytics in pandemic planning

The Deloitte Ireland Health & Social Care team has supported the Irish health system to optimise national laboratory testing capacity and achieve 24 hour turnaround for SARS-CoV-2 testing. Working in partnership with our client (Irish health system) using advanced analytics techniques, the award-winning work has optimised testing turnaround times and supported public health decision making.

11 March 2020. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic and called upon all countries to “activate and scale up their emergency response mechanisms,” recommending mass testing. Many countries – including Ireland – struggled to respond to the huge surge in testing requirements.

Predicting the demand

Fast forward to early summer 2020. The trajectory of the disease highlighted the demand for increased PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing capacity, but determining the precise demand was complex. Working in partnership with the Health Service Executive teams we developed a statistical model for Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) to model the potential national demand and distribution for COVID-19 testing throughout the year. Supported by inputs from Ireland’s clinical, pathology and epidemiological experts, we co-designed a model to analyse inputs such as influenza testing figures from previous years, seasonal patterns for hospital operational capacity and Ireland’s scientific and diagnostic workforce. The data was then compared against the existing testing capacity to identify any potential shortfalls throughout the year and how much extra clinical diagnostics capacity required.

Suzanne McDonald, Deloitte Ireland's Health and Social Care Lead said:

“The development of this robust testing infrastructure was the culmination of a truly collaborative process – working in partnership with the Health Service Executive and national experts to ensure that Ireland has the necessary capacity and data to support the pandemic response. We are proud to have had the opportunity of working with the HSE to solve one of society’s most complex challenges in recent times.”

Good news

SARS-CoV-2 clinical diagnostics is highly time sensitive, and there is an imperative to minimise the length of time it takes for an individual to receive a test result. The timeline from swabbing to test result is crucial to public health’s disease management process. Working with a range of stakeholders – including the HSE, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Acute Hospital and the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) as part of a multidisciplinary team of logistics, laboratory and IT experts, enabled our Healthcare team in Ireland to improve the laboratory testing turnaround time – good news for patients, clinicians and wider society.

To increase Ireland’s COVID-19 testing capacity, the model analyses data to inform decisions around stock management, shift patterns and workforce planning within the laboratories processing COVID-19 swabs. The model contributed to more accurate predictability of testing demand and enabled the laboratories to prepare to meet the testing requirements of the third COVID-19 wave in early January 2021. At this time, the system faced significant pressure, and the benefits of planning and investment in testing infrastructure were clear. By early January 2021 Ireland saw approximately 30,000 COVID-19 tests carried out in a single day.

True potential of analytics

This project was delivered through a co-design process with the HSE, working closely with those engaged in all aspects of the health system and testing pathway. Our team supported the HSE with analytics expertise to predict and manage the flow of tests from swab to result against a backdrop of exponentially increasing testing capacity. The work has enhanced the client’s ability to provide additional testing through asymptomatic testing and walk-in testing - unimaginable at the outset of the pandemic.

Donal Lynch, Deloitte Analytics & Cognitive Team, and Testing Analytics Lead reflects:

“Our work has helped the HSE predict and plan for the worst the pandemic had to offer. Working hand-in-hand with the health service our team has contributed to optimised turnaround times for COVID-19 testing, proving the potential of advanced analytics. It has been a real privilege to be part of the Health Service Executive response to the pandemic.”
”Working with our client and the many committed people across the health system over the past year has been a unique experience, and we’ve played an important role in helping our healthcare system withstand one of its toughest years in living memory.”
Donal Lynch,

Testing Analytics Lead, Deloitte Ireland

High quality health

The HSE provides all of Ireland's public health services in hospitals and communities across the country. Its vision is to create a healthier Ireland with a high-quality health service valued by all.

Suzanne McDonald


Simon Murphy