Salt Lake City, UT — (ReleaseWire) — 03/22/2022 — Intermountain Healthcare has hit a major medical milestone by surpassing two million COVID-19 tests that have been collected and processed since early 2020 when the pandemic started.
“This milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the caregivers throughout our system, but especially in our lab who process these tests 24 hours a day,” said Karen Brownell, assistant vice president of Intermountain Healthcare Laboratory Services.
In the two years since the start of the pandemic a lot has changed in testing procedures, collection, and processing to allow for easier access and faster results for the community.
On March 13, 2020, Intermountain’s Central Lab in Murray began processing COVID-19 tests and on the first day evaluated a total of 14 tests. By mid-week, caregivers were processing 204 tests a day, but were still limited by supplies. Now, the lab can process and evaluate 9,500 COVID tests a day with more than 90 percent having results within 24 hours.
“Testing and quick turnaround times have been key to keeping people safe and giving them the information needed to protect those around them,” said Bert Lopansri, MD, associate medical director for infectious diseases and medical director for microbiology for Intermountain Healthcare. “We’ve come a long way since the first days of the pandemic.”
Brownell and Dr. Lopansri credit Intermountain’s testing and collection success to logistics and ability to quickly set up 25 collection sites across the state, while working hard to keep testing supplies on hand.
Intermountain caregivers in the lab also worked to implement new testing methods to increase volume and turnaround time.
Early polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests required additional staff to collect and process a nasopharyngeal swab. Now Intermountain uses saliva tests which people can do in their car and requires no staff on site to collect, making for a safer and faster process.
Even though COVID cases have dramatically dropped in recent weeks, caregivers at Intermountain’s Central Lab are ready if another wave of infections happens.
“With overall demand down, we hope rapid PCR testing, which to this point has only made up about 20 percent of all tests, will make up a larger share of needed testing so we have results even faster,” said Sterling Bennett, MD, medical director of Intermountain Central Lab. “The continued improvements in process and technology are making us more prepared for a future with COVID or any other infectious diseases.”
Dr. Bennett says caregivers are hopeful there won’t be another spike in cases but if there is, testing will play an important role in keeping the community safe.
For more information on COVID testing at Intermountain click here.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.
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