Predicting patients with false negative SARS-CoV-2 testing at hospital admission: A retrospective multi-center study

Academic Article


  • Importance False negative SARS-CoV-2 tests can lead to spread of infection in the inpatient setting to other patients and healthcare workers. However, the population of patients with COVID who are admitted with false negative testing is unstudied. Objective To characterize and develop a model to predict true SARS-CoV-2 infection among patients who initially test negative for COVID by PCR. Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting Five hospitals within the Yale New Haven Health System between 3/10/2020 and 9/1/2020. Participants Adult patients who received diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus within the first 96 hours of hospitalization. Exposure We developed a logistic regression model from readily available electronic health record data to predict SARS-CoV-2 positivity in patients who were positive for COVID and those who were negative and never retested. Main outcomes and measures This model was applied to patients testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 who were retested within the first 96 hours of hospitalization. We evaluated the ability of the model to discriminate between patients who would subsequently retest negative and those who would subsequently retest positive. Results We included 31,459 hospitalized adult patients; 2,666 of these patients tested positive for COVID and 3,511 initially tested negative for COVID and were retested. Of the patients who were retested, 61 (1.7%) had a subsequent positive COVID test. The model showed that higher age, vital sign abnormalities, and lower white blood cell count served as strong predictors for COVID positivity in these patients. The model had moderate performance to predict which patients would retest positive with a test set area under the receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) of 0.76 (95% CI 0.70 0.83). Using a cutpoint for our risk prediction model at the 90th percentile for probability, we were able to capture 35/61 (57%) of the patients who would retest positive. This cutpoint amounts to a number-needed-To-retest range between 15 and 77 patients. Conclusion and relevance We show that a pragmatic model can predict which patients should be retested for COVID. Further research is required to determine if this risk model can be applied prospectively in hospitalized patients to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ghazi L; Simonov M; Mansour SG; Moledina DG; Greenberg JH; Yamamoto Y; Biswas A; Wilson FP
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 5 May