Real-world evidence: the low validity of temperature screening for COVID-19 triage

Bogdan C. Pană, Henrique Lopes, Florentina Furtunescu, Diogo Franco, Anca Rapcea, Mihai Stanca, Alina Tănase, Anca Coliţă

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic forced health-related organizations to rapidly launch country-wide procedures that were easy to use and inexpensive. Body temperature measurement with non-contact infrared thermometers (NCITs) is among the most common procedures, both in hospital settings and in many other entities. However, practical hospital experiences have raised great doubts about the procedure's validity. Aim: This study aimed to evaluate the validity of the body temperature measured using NCITs among oncological and transplant patients who took the polymerase chain reaction test for SARS-Cov-2 PCR+ and PCR- in a Romanian Hospital. Methods: Body temperature was measured for 5,231 inpatients using NCITs. The cutoff point for fever was equal to or above 37.3°C. Patients then completed a questionnaire about their symptoms, contact, and travel history. Findings: Fever was detected in five of 53 persons with PCR+, resulting in a sensitivity of 9.43% (95% CI, 3.13–20.66%). No fever was verified in 5,131 of 5,171 persons with PCR-, resulting in a specificity of 99.15% (95% CI, 98.86–99.38%). A defensive vision of NCIT procedure (maximum standard error only in favor) had a sensitivity of 15.09% (95% CI, 6.75–27.59%). Conclusions: The use of NCITs in a triage provides little value for detection of COVID-19. Moreover, it provides a false sense of protection against the disease while possibly discriminating individuals that could present fever due to other reasons, such as oncologic treatments, where fever is a common therapeutical consequence. The consumption of qualified human resources should be considered, especially in the context of the shortage of healthcare professionals worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Article number672698
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


  • Triage
  • Screening
  • Non-contact temperature measurement
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2


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