Expanding COVID-19 Testing

When one of the first covid-19 drive-through testing sites in Ohio opened outside the University of Dayton (UD) arena in mid-March, it initiated a testing program that has since advanced, expanded, and continued uninterrupted.

“We have not turned the lights off since March 17,” said Nick Lair, system vice president, laboratory services at Premier Health.

The UD site for those with a physician’s order for a COVID-19 test was started by Premier Health with the cooperation of the University of Dayton, and was staffed by CompuNet Clinical Laboratories, Fidelity Health Care, and Premier Health Urgent Care. Testing of patients with respiratory symptoms had been taking place at Premier Health Urgent Care’s seven locations since the pandemic began.

“It was evident, though, that more access would be needed. We wanted a safer, faster option for testing patients to help our community, which led to the partnership to develop and operationalize the drive-through COVID testing site at UD Arena,” said Pamela Lyons, RN, MBA, director, Urgent Care and Occupational Health.

At first, there were 100 to 150 tests performed daily at the UD site, but numbers grew when testing was expanded to include antibody testing in May. Expansion continued with the initiation of universal precaution COVID testing at UD and hospitals for all patients heading to Premier Health facilities for surgery and other procedures.

“This is all about supporting the physician community and the testing so that once the patients have their results, the physicians can work toward their treatment. We require an order. If the patient is tested, they need the guidance of their physician,” Lair said.

By August, “volume had been creeping up” with an average of around 350 tests a day. The test site was moved nearby to OnMain (the site of the former Montgomery County Fairgrounds), across from Miami Valley Hospital’s main campus. Testing then was expanded to 11 locations that included temporary structures to help those doing the testing better endure the elements. By the beginning of October, an average of approximately 450 people per day were being seen at the testing sites. In early November, testing was expanded to all patients with a physician’s order at any of the 11 locations from Troy to Montgomery, near Cincinnati. As of mid-December, more than 250,000 COVID tests had been conducted.

“We were able to perform tests early on and have been going strong since. We are doing more than ever,” Lair said. “It is because of CompuNet Clinical Lab’s strategy and testing execution that this extended effort has been possible.”

The testing effort should come as no surprise, he said. “When the chips are down, when a pandemic starts or a disaster strikes, the community always depends on the health care providers,” Lair said. “We were live, the lights were on immediately, and patients and physicians were extremely supportive of our efforts.”