LHSC reaches significant COVID-19 lab testing milestone

Roxanne Wan, Medical Laboratory Assistant, Key Operator at LHSC is working on the newly purchased STAR (Liquid Handler/Extractor) nicknamed “Axiom”

Roxanne Wan, Medical Laboratory Assistant, Key Operator at LHSC is working on the newly purchased STAR (Liquid Handler/Extractor) nicknamed “Axiom”

August 21, 2020

In service of the people across southwestern Ontario, the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (PaLM) team at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has reached a critical milestone in testing volumes for COVID-19. The hospital-based laboratory first began processing COVID-19 test swabs in mid-March with the goal of building from an initial 50 tests per day volume to 3,000 tests per day. The PaLM team has now surpassed that initial milestone as they continue to expand testing capacity.

“We have been steadily increasing our testing volume capacity over these last four months and we are thrilled to have reached what we view as an important marker in our COVID-19 journey,” says Glen Kearns, Integrated Vice President, Diagnostic Services and Chief Information Officer at LHSC. “Reaching this figure is a representation of much more than an increase in processing tests. It is the culmination of significant efforts behind-the-scenes to add new equipment, create newly renovated laboratory spaces, on-board new team members, and integrate various IT systems; which today allow for seamless and streamlined ordering and resulting of these COVID-19 tests.”

PaLM has been regularly meeting a 24-hour turn-around time for COVID-19 testing results, even while increasing capacity to sixty-times the initial volume, using highly innovative digital solutions. Working together with LHSC’s Information Technology Services (ITS) team, PaLM has developed on-line test ordering tools, connectivity between the various health information systems that are used by clinicians to order tests and receive results, as well as digital solutions for accurately entering hundreds of results at a time. Together these novel technologies benefit all hospitals and assessment centres across southwestern Ontario, speeding up testing and ensuring high-quality results every time.

“Our labs have always held the view that our work is greater than simply processing a large volume of tests in a short amount of time,” says Kearns. “We wanted to ensure we were considering the entire process from test ordering to delivery of the results, and have worked to improve the structure of our processes with that larger framework in mind. A fast lab turnaround time isn’t valuable to people or the system at large if the results aren’t also flowing back in a timely manner, so we are really proud that we have been able to develop a simplified, streamlined process that is meeting the needs and expectations of both clinicians and the individuals waiting for their results.”

PaLM is a joint venture of LHSC and St. Joseph’s Health Care London. The labs provide a comprehensive range of routine and specialized testing and clinical consultation for patient care within southwestern Ontario and beyond. Through the pandemic, PaLM has expanded its regional collaboration to include seven public health units, long term care/retirement home operators and primary care providers. This collaboration of professionals, technologists, leaders, ITS team members, support staff, and vendors is the true success of achieving new levels of testing for people in our region.