While routine testing showed gains, clinical lab volumes for other specialties have either remained flat or have exhibited ebbs and flows over the past year. 

By Chris Wolski

Data released by XiFin shows that clinical lab volumes for routine testing (above) were 2% higher in January 2024 over their pre-pandemic baseline. In general, routine testing has been on the upswing since cratering in the earliest days of the pandemic in March and April 2020. 

However, these clinical lab volumes dropped 5% from December 2023, but this is likely a seasonal anomaly and not the beginning of new trend.

On the flipside, clinical lab volumes for COVID testing have shown a continued deterioration since peaking in December of 2020. It can be expected that COVID testing volumes will continue to remain low, particularly now that the CDC has recommended treating COVID similarly to influenza and eliminating self-quarantining when sick. Volumes were down about 3.8% in January 2024 versus January 2023. Year-over-year, COVID clinical lab volumes was down 57%.

Overall clinical lab volumes in general were down 1% year-over-year and about 4% below pre-pandemic baselines.

Immunology saw a modest 1% increase year over year, and pathology clinical lab volumes were flat year-over-year.

The bright spot continues to be molecular and genetic testing, fueled, in part, by the increased availability of PCR platforms in a significant number of labs. The significant increase in the number of PCR platforms was fueled by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic as labs scaled up to meet COVID testing demands. As the pandemic entered its endemic phase and COVID testing levels dropped, labs needed to repurpose these systems for other testing. The ongoing result of this shift, growing volumes of genetic and molecular tests. The increasing knowledge, interest, and demand by patients for these advanced tests may also be fueling in parallel the explosion in molecular and genetic testing, which continues to outpace all testing modalities.

While the molecular and genetic segment dipped in January from December—again, likely due to seasonal/short-term reasons—its clinical lab volume is 64% higher than it was for its 2019 baseline, and an even larger difference when comparing to its 2022 baseline.

The XiFin Lab Volume Index is published monthly. The February report provides data up to January 2024. The company’s data goes back to January 2019.

Charts Courtesy of XiFin.

Chris Wolski is chief editor of CLP.