How we raised our COVID-19 testing capacity to 50,000 tests a day
Our state testing programs nationally are currently handling 2–4 percent of nationwide testing on a daily basis, and we have completed over two million online assessments in our state programs. Our daily capacity has risen leaps and bounds, and we are now able to handle up to 50,000 tests a day. In a country leading the world in new cases with a testing capacity stretched thin, this has been no small feat.
When the pandemic struck our nation in early March, we took our core business model — going direct in healthcare — and quickly mobilized to help local governments scale their emergency response and meet the challenges of COVID-19. As the country watched the majority of testing operations fail us, this came as no surprise to us.
Given our extensive backgrounds in healthcare and innovation, we knew testing was a product of the same broken healthcare system that has failed Americans for years — only this time our healthcare system was breaking around purchasing and business model when we needed it most. We knew we needed to adapt and innovate quickly.
Here’s how we expanded capacity and built a second-to-none testing operation that the rest of our nation should model after.
Streamlining the Supply Chain
The first step in a successful testing operation is sourcing the necessary materials. From nasopharyngeal swabs to masks and face shields, sourcing these highly demanded materials can be a challenge. We have deep expertise and connections with medical suppliers, which we have been able to tap into for our testing operations. Since we manage over 60 testing sites across three states, we can leverage our buying power for more supplies at better rates.
Traditionally, organizations rely on distributors, buying organizations and GPOs for their healthcare needs. So instead of relying on the same vendors as every other city, state and country, we at Nomi simply cut them out and looked for new ways to directly access equipment and testing materials directly from manufacturers. We identified a local Utah-based diagnostics company that was shipping FDA-authorized tests to countries in Europe, but not states in the U.S., and were able to source millions of tests. We repeated the same process for swab and transport kits, extraction materials and all other consumable products we needed. By cutting out the players who traditionally slow down the process and each take their own cut, we lowered costs and rebuilt conventional supply chains so we control the entire life of the test kit — from sourcing to purchase to delivery.
Oftentimes local governments and healthcare facilities get caught up in spending extra time in their operations. This can not be the case during a pandemic when we need to lower costs and provide tests to our nation. We need a streamlined solution, and one modeled after Nebraska, Iowa and Utah.
Tech Powered User Experience
In addition to streamlining the supply chain, we built a user experience that incorporates technology at every step of the process — from the first assessment to final results reported. Patients can take the online assessment on their own time and quickly schedule an appointment that works for their schedule, if eligible. This simple scheduling feature allows patients to arrive at a testing location and get swabbed immediately rather than needlessly waiting in line for hours. Each patient also receives a unique barcode so we can track their appointment, sample, and results.
By bringing a user-centric approach to testing programs — we can make them simultaneously more efficient and more convenient for patients.
Mobile & Ad Hoc Test CollectionCenters
Last week, we announced the launch of two COVID-19 mobile testing units to rapidly deploy resources to Utah communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus. These testing centers have helped us expand the State’s testing capacity and bring it to where it needs to be. As the demand for tests continues to increase, this unit will allow us to quickly open up more appointments and ensure wait times at testing locations remain short. Mobile and ad hoc testing centers are a crucial component of any successful COVID testing program. With over 60+ testing centers in operation, we are one of the largest providers of COVID-19 testing in the U.S.
Automated Laboratory Operations
We’ve benefited from an obsessive focus on Covid-19 testing. We do not have to operate labs that process any other types of samples or tests. Traditionally laboratories operate on a model where a single patient receives lots of tests (think of your last physical). The laboratory model in America broke because rather than one person having twenty (20) tests run against their sample now you have 20 patients having one (1) test run against their sample. As such the labs we setup across the country are outfitted for high speed manufacturing which means we focus on high efficiency alloquatting, pipetting with robotics, process automation across steps and PCR analysis focused on Covid-19. Our teams are ¼–½ the size of other operations and produce 2–3x throughput per day.
In fighting the Covid fight there’s not a silver bullet. Each and every step of our vertically focused operation needs to be constantly optimized. As long as we need to we will focus on delivering widely available, abundant no cost testing to the communities we serve each and every day.