As the nations of the world begin transitioning from flattening the curve to cautiously beginning to resume doing business, the focus is turning to how best to prevent a “second wave” – and in fact to operate over the long term in the face of potential similar pandemics.
Experts tell us this may only be the beginning, and that the likelihood is that new zoonotic viruses will arise with increasing frequency as we continue to disrupt natural habitats to accommodate the ever-increasing human population.1
So what can businesses do to protect themselves and how can laboratories optimize their services to meet the challenge both now and moving forward?
“…when it comes to regular testing, most businesses are in an area with which they are unfamiliar, and the whole process is an unwelcome learning curve. This is where laboratories – and technology – can step up and step in.”
If you’re a business, you want to make sure you’re protecting your employees as effectively as possible (as well as your customers, if you are customer-facing – or students, teaching staff and administration if you are an educational facility). That means all or some of: masks, gloves, social distancing, disinfecting, taking temperatures and testing. Business owners everywhere are figuring out how to meet the challenges of implementing these measures in ways that make sense for their business. Most of these are simply logistics problems, and marking “X’s” on the floor, setting regular schedules for sanitation, etc. can be managed.
But when it comes to regular testing, most businesses are in an area with which they are unfamiliar, and the whole process is an unwelcome learning curve. This is where laboratories – and technology – can step up and step in.
The key is that for most businesses and organizations, performing laboratory testing and managing those data are far from their core expertise set. But they are at the center of a lab’s business model. The answer is to, in effect, bring the laboratory to the business, so businesses need not struggle with what labs do naturally.
Many labs are already used to collecting their own samples, processing them and reporting the results – for instance agricultural, environmental and cannabis testing labs. But medical samples are different. Labs must be HIPAA-compliant and CLIA certified or waivered to protect personal health records and meet human health standards. Those kinds of labs receive samples taken at physicians’ offices, urgent cares, hospitals or other medical facilities by qualified nurses, phlebotomists, etc.
Qualified labs can help business cope with this and future pandemics and health crises by providing kits with pre-labeled specimen containers, swabs, preservatives and whatever other components are necessary for a designated onsite or regularly scheduled health professional to take samples, and quickly return them to the lab for a fast turnaround of results, on a regular basis. Some labs and informatics software vendors are combining to do just that. But they’re taking it up a notch by including small, portable barcode printers and scanners, and the intelligent software to manage all of the data and reporting. That means greater accuracy and faster turnaround. It also means identifying any anomalies or trends early, so they can be acted upon swiftly, before significantly affecting operations.
That’s exactly the approach taken by longtime laboratory software company LabLynx, Inc., with their latest new hardware/software products COVIDLiMS, myLabCare and C-SIC Kit (COVID-Sample Information Collection Kit).1
MyLabCare is the system’s physician portal, with a patient portal also available free to patients and businesses; and the C-SIC Kit is a field kit complete with tablet/mobile software and mini scanner and printer for collecting and handling sample information. Partnered labs use COVIDLiMS, portals, kit and related software to manage all of their customers’ COVID-19 or other health-related data, taking the burden completely off the business/organization. And the system is cloud-based, making it securely accessible from anywhere and available 24/7.
Quickly implemented and relatively inexpensive, look for more and more labs and businesses linking up using systems like this to manage health challenges. And the increasing availability of self-tests means that very soon such systems may not even require a health professional to collect samples.