LabWare and the Florida Department of Health Fighting COVID-19
LabWare's business is about providing enterprise software for testing laboratories. We are the global leaders in Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS). One area we support is Public Health. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) laboratories use LabWare LIMS. This is business as usual for us, and we don't need any assistance there. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it's been clear that more testing is required to defeat the virus and to get people back to work. So, LabWare approached the problem from the position that for this testing to get done, it's going to involve a lot of activity in the field and not just within a heath care setting; i.e., drive-up testing sites, nursing homes, etc.
What we realized is that all this testing is supported by lots of paper. There are questionnaires for triage of the person (patient contact). There are requisition forms for testing, and the specimens collected in the field have handwritten labels. If scheduling patient appointments is necessary, this is all done on paper. The problem with all this paper is that things get lost, and there are numerous transcription errors when the data is entered into various computer systems. The paper becomes a big bottleneck for the labs to process the samples, which delays testing. Often, the results are no longer tied to the patient, and thus, the whole process must be repeated.
LabWare set out to solve this problem by introducing a system which uses iPads which are tied into a mobile hot spot and which run our app to communicate with a cloud based HIPAA compliant server running our LIMS. The system allows scheduling of patient visits to testing locations, capturing the patient demographic information and responses to the many triage questions. In the field, when specimen samples are collected, we print labels which have a barcode as well as the patient's name and DOB. This information is used by the DOH labs to identify the sample and patient. All the data we are collecting is transmitted within minutes to the DOH system, so when the samples arrive at the lab, they are scanned and ready to be tested. We piloted this system at the Jacksonville lab this week. Our plan was to gather information on the gaps where we need to enhance the system to be ready for live use. Much to our surprise, what we had done met the needs of the DOH. We planned on departing Florida, but they told us they want to go live with the system now. So, we stayed in Florida, and we are now live.
All of this is Part 1 of the COVID-19 challenge. Part 2 is figuring out how to get people back to work. Everyone knows this will require a lot of testing. There are now point-of-care test kits available for antigen and antibody testing without the need to send samples to the lab and for which results can be obtained within 30 minutes. This is the type of testing which will need to be done at the scale of millions of people. The challenge for Part 2 is how can all this testing be tracked so we can know who can work and who needs to be quarantined? We have the answer for this with the solution we developed for Part 1 of the problem. We can send the information directly to the CDC and all other relevant parties in FL. We are on the radar of the Corona Virus Task Force, so we can help solve this problem.
Please make good choices and remain healthy and safe.