By Jonesa Rodriguez - July 13, 2020
What does an organization do when COVID-19 is circulating in the community and patients still need lifesaving care? Create an on-site testing clinic, such as the one on the campus of Moffitt Cancer Center.
As surgeries and other cancer care procedures return to normal, the team at Moffitt is meeting the needs of patients by making COVID-19 screening as easy and safe as possible. With increasing evidence that COVID-19 can worsen cancer outcomes and vice versa, Moffitt set up a new testing clinic in the Stabile Research Building.
“The testing clinic is crucial to ensuring our patients can safely get the treatments and procedures they need in their cancer journey,” said Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician-in-chief at Moffitt.
Testing before surgeries, upper body radiation and interventional procedures is important and potentially lifesaving for not only the patient but also Moffitt’s clinical team.
“For surgical patients, if COVID-19 is present, intubation or use of the ventilator could exacerbate an infection by pushing the virus deeper in the lung,” McIver said. “This is why it’s critical we know the patient is not carrying the virus before the surgery.”
According to McIver, if COVID-19 is present during an upper body procedure, it could place the Moffitt team at a greater risk because of the close physical proximity needed before and during a procedure.
“We know the virus will remain a challenge for months to come, and we need to find ways to ensure that both our team members and our patients are protected,” McIver said.
Before any upcoming surgeries or procedures, patients are now scheduled to visit the clinic for COVID-19 testing, which takes 10 minutes. After testing is completed, the results are run on-site and are returned, usually within a matter of hours.
“We have been running about 100 to 120 tests a day and have tested more than 2,700 patients since opening the clinic in May,” McIver said. “As our state reopened and Moffitt was able to proceed with surgeries, this on-site testing allowed us to safely provide timely care for our patients.”
The on-site testing was made possible by the Molecular and Microbiology laboratory teams, who came together to develop and validate the test within just five days. Before, Moffitt had to send tests to an outside lab and wait on the results, often for several days.
With the pandemic still raging, larger groups of patients now need testing, straining the ability of the lab to keep up with demand. “In response to our increasing need for testing, our lab has now introduced a new swab type, which increases our capacity to test up to 1,000 patients per day,” said McIver.
Increased test capacity allows Moffitt to now test almost all patients prior to procedures and other cancer treatments, including many radiation treatments, chemotherapy regimens and bone marrow transplants. In addition, Moffitt now offers testing to all inpatients upon admission to the hospital.
It will also help the cancer center offer accurate tests for any of its team members who develop symptoms. Rather than sending them to a local physician or public testing center, Moffitt can now have those tests run in-house, giving team members peace of mind with quicker test results, while also getting them back more quickly to their job of caring for patients with cancer.