London, Ont., Hospital-Based Lab Marks Coronavirus Testing Capacity Milestone

The London-based Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (PaLM) team, which serves southwestern Ontario and beyond, has gone from processing 50 coronavirus tests per day in mid-March to more than 3,000 per day in August, with plans to further expand testing capacity, according to the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

As well, PaLM has been “regularly meeting a 24-hour turnaround time” for test results even while increasing capacity, thanks to “highly innovative digital solutions” and a partnership with the LHSC’s Information Technology Services (ITS) team.

The collaboration between PaLM and ITS resulted in the development of online test ordering tools, connectivity between health information systems used to order tests and receive results, and digital solutions for accurately entering hundreds of results at a time, according to LHSC.

“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 LHSC chief information officer Glen Kearns.

“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.”

LHSC also notes that the new technologies and processes developed between PaLM and ITS benefit “all hospitals and assessment centres across southwestern Ontario, speeding up testing and ensuring high-quality results every time.”

Kearns adds that PaLM wanted to consider the entire process from start to finish.

“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. Since the pandemic began, PaLM has “expanded its regional collaboration to include seven public health units, long term care/retirement home operators, and primary care providers.”

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