In January and February—during the earliest stages of the pandemic—reference labs were completing between 10,000 and 20,000 tests daily. By late April, they were approaching 100,000. Heather explains one reason results could be available so quickly: unprecedented cooperation between HCA Healthcare and its vendors—and competitors.
“Stanford University let some of our hospitals in northern California send them tests before our automated platform was up and running,” says Heather. “To allow us testing for patient care is really great.”
The testing process also benefited from a laboratory restructuring across the enterprise that began rolling out in early 2019. “We had core teams of people who could address key laboratory issues, so they were ready,” says Heather. “They had already worked together and knew how to make things happen quickly.”
Within HCA Healthcare, there was streamlined cooperation. “We had multiple divisions—Gulf Coast and San Antonio, to name two—with excess capacity for testing,” says Heather. “They recognized that we had shortages, so they shipped equipment and test kits that were allocated specifically to them to other divisions that didn’t have anything in house, so we could have testing capabilities in other hotbed markets.”
While that was a short-term fix, says Heather, it allowed time to devise long-term strategies as facilities waited for additional vendors to make test kits available. “To see that level of cooperation between divisions—‘We know our sister facilities are struggling more than us, and we’re going to make sure that they’re taken care of’—was just amazing.”