JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Starting this week, Ballad Health will be among the first healthcare systems in the nation to deploy rapid testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Instead of test results for COVID-19 taking five to seven days, this new rapid molecular test, developed by diagnostics company Cepheid, will provide patients in the Appalachian Highlands with test results in five to seven hours.
“Ballad Health has been working hard to serve the needs of the community during this trying time and finding ways to streamline testing for COVID-19 has been one of our top priorities,” said Brad Price, senior vice president and chief integration officer at Ballad Health.
Price said Ballad Health will have the capacity to process approximately 50 of the rapid tests per day, but that number is expected to grow in the coming weeks.
“To better meet the needs of our community, our executive leadership team has decided to invest additional dollars into increasing the capacity so that we will be able to process around 400 rapid tests per day within the next two to three weeks,” Price said.
On Saturday, March 21, Cepheid announced it had gained emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use Xpert® Xpress SARS-CoV-2, a rapid molecular diagnostic test for qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.
“During this time of increased demand for hospital services, clinicians urgently need an on-demand diagnostic test for real-time management of patients being evaluated for admission to healthcare facilities. An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative — and help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on healthcare facilities that need to properly allocate their respiratory isolation resources,” said Dr. David Persing, chief medical and technology officer at Cepheid.
“By leveraging the design principles of our current Xpert Xpress Flu/RSV cartridge technology, in which multiple regions of the viral genome are targeted to provide rapid detection of current and potential future variants of SARS-CoV-2, we have developed a test that provides reference lab-quality results in multiple settings where actionable treatment information is needed quickly.”
The test is designed to operate on any of Cepheid’s more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert® Systems worldwide, including those within the Ballad Health system.
“We are eager to scale up our capacity,” said Eric Deaton, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Ballad Health, “and taking care to utilize rapid testing where it’s needed most. This prioritization helps us preserve needed personal protective equipment for our team members, and slow community spread.”
Ballad Health will prioritize in-patients needing testing; patients with severe symptoms presenting in Ballad Health emergency departments; and Ballad Health team members experiencing symptoms and exposed to COVID-19. Community members who suspect they may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should continue to utilize the screening process established by Ballad Health and can do so by calling the Ballad Health Nurse Connect line at 833-822-5523 (833-8-BALLAD).
This announcement does not impact patients who have already been tested for COVID-19. If you have already been tested and are awaiting results, you do not need to be re-tested. Your results will be provided by Ballad Health or the local health department when the results are provided by the laboratory companies previously processing the tests.
If you or someone you know is experiencing moderate symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or shortness of breath, please call the Ballad Health Nurse Connect line at 833-822-5523 (833-8-BALLAD) to be screened. The hotline is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As always, if you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.
To learn more about COVID-19 and how you can stop its potential spread, visit www.balladhealth.org/covid19.