New In-House COVID-19 Test Analysis Brings Much Faster Results
Einstein Healthcare Network staff and leaders recently celebrated a significant step forward in COVID-19 treatment.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus through the Philadelphia region has led to days-long delays in obtaining test results, which in turn has put a serious strain on hospital resources.
But after weeks of searching for options and navigating roadblocks, the network obtained an analyzer machine, the M2000 from Abbott, that will bring the process completely in-house. The machine began processing tests on Thursday, April 16.
Much Faster Results
Laboratory staff will use the machine to analyze test specimens from the entire Einstein network in large batches, says Maureen Jordan, Vice President of Healthcare Services for Einstein Healthcare Network.
“The ability to turn around the results in same day or the next day is going to be a huge improvement for our patients and the network because we’ve been experiencing long delays from our commercial labs,” she says.
In-house testing will provide results within six to seven hours. Until now, Jordan says, Einstein has been forced to send tests to outside labs, with results taking as long as 10 days. More recently, tests have gone to a laboratory in Texas that sent them back in two to three days, but at a cost of $100 per test.
Better Use of Isolation Beds and Equipment
Faster results will allow much more efficient care and avoid tying up isolation beds for patients who may turn out to test negative for COVID-19, Jordan says.
“If you come into the hospital with symptoms and our physicians feel you could have COVID, we test you. But while you’re awaiting those results, you’re placed in isolation, which means everyone who comes into your room needs to have an isolation gown and N95 mask, all the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for you.”
At least some of those patients will test negative. “With results available sooner, we can evaluate and move patients out of isolation. That will help with utilization of PPE, Jordan says.
‘A Game Changer’
“It’s a game changer,” says Gunjan Kahlon, MD, Chair of Hospital Medicine at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia.
“Patients can now expect results within hours, less uncertainty and anxiety, and a safer environment as we can put patients who test negative together,” Dr. Kahlon says.
Quicker test results also can allow a shorter wait in the Emergency Department for new patients and earlier discharge of patients who have recovered, she says.
For example, Jordan notes, “a nursing home will not accept a patient back until they have a negative test result. So again, having a quicker turnaround time of that result is really going to help,” she says.
Aggressive Pursuit of Better Testing
Einstein has been looking for ways to get faster test results ever since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Jordan gives particular credit to Sasha Voce, network administrative director for the lab. “She very aggressively, from day one, looked at multiple opportunities for testing for our network, knowing that when you go down one road it may not work out for you.”
“Sasha was in contact with Abbott because we are a customer, and they had a really good understanding of our patient population and the community we serve,” Jordan says. “Sasha actually had a call with the CEO of Abbott and was successful in securing an instrument for our organization. Sasha is a committed leader who can make things happen, and we are fortunate to have her overseeing the operations of our lab across the network.”
Hotspot ZIP Code
Jordan noted that the ZIP Codes surrounding Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia have the city’s highest percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 infection, putting the hospital at the epicenter of Philadelphia’s outbreak.
“We have seen an increase in patients who require ICU level of care and mechanical ventilation, “Jordan says. “To meet our patients’ needs, we created two additional ICUs for COVID-19 patients in non-traditional areas on top of our three traditional ICUs.”
The Abbott analyzer machine arrived April 7, at which point the IT department helped with installation and connections to the electronic health record, which is used to place electronic orders and send test results to the patient’s medical record.
“The microbiology lab employees quickly learned to use this new instrument and performed validation studies to ensure results were accurate according to lab standards before going live this week,” Jordan says.
“This whole process has been remarkable to see what our staff do every day to help our patients and each other during this crisis,” she says. “They are true heroes and exemplify what Einstein Strong really means. We all are so proud of our front-line staff and grateful for all they do every day.”