CommonSpirit Health Opens Reference Lab to Increase COVID-19 Test Capacity across the U.S.

Up to 10,000 molecular tests per day will support physicians in diagnosing COVID-19 in patients just as flu season approaches

Chicago, Ill.—September 8, 2020—CommonSpirit Health, a national health system serving communities in 21 states, today announced the opening of its Reference Lab, which will more than triple current COVID-19 testing for the nonprofit’s 137 hospitals and 1000+ care sites. Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, CommonSpirit’s Lab will alone increase the country’s COVID-19 test capacity by up to 70,000 tests per week.

Many experts agree that slowing the spread of COVID-19 will rely, in large part, on having up-to-date data – for which widespread testing is a key indicator. For the past few weeks, the U.S. has completed around 700,000 COVID-19 tests daily. Expanding the country’s testing capacity with investments in new labs is necessary to track the virus and to support transmission-control measures.

“As the coronavirus will affect the health of our communities for the foreseeable future, we all have a role to play in increasing COVID-19 testing capacity across the U.S.,” said Karen Smith, system vice president of laboratory services at CommonSpirit Health. “By supporting CommonSpirit’s acute and ambulatory care sites with expanded testing, we can free up hospital capacity for critically ill patients and provide greater peace of mind to patients waiting for their results.”

CommonSpirit’s Reference Lab will analyze molecular (PCR) COVID-19 diagnostic tests, which detect the genetic material of the virus with specialized laboratory procedures that often aren’t supported by existing lab equipment at care sites. From the time of receipt at the Reference Lab, test results are expected within a maximum of 36 hours and will be incorporated into the patient’s electronic medical record.

While CommonSpirit’s on-site labs will continue to perform tests for those in the emergency room, same-day surgeries, and inpatients, the Reference Lab will better meet the system’s need to perform more tests a day than its current capacity.

Receiving a timely diagnosis will allow health professionals to treat patients in the most appropriate care setting – whether it’s in the comfort of their homes or in the hospital. This Fall, widespread testing will be even more important to help physicians distinguish between influenza and COVID-19, as the two viruses present with similar symptoms.

The CommonSpirit Reference Lab will:
• Process up to 10,000 molecular (PCR) COVID-19 diagnostic tests each day for planned surgeries and non-emergent cases,
• Provide test results within 36 hours from the time of receipt at the Reference Lab and will be included in the patient’s electronic medical record, and
• Continue to operate post-pandemic in support of CommonSpirit’s precision medicine program by performing anatomical pathology molecular testing, flow cytometry, cytogenics, and next-gen sequencing.

About CommonSpirit Health
CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. CommonSpirit Health is committed to creating healthier communities, delivering exceptional patient care, and ensuring every person has access to quality health care. With a team of approximately 150,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, CommonSpirit Health operates 137 hospitals and more than 1000 care sites across 21 states. In FY 2019, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health had combined revenues of nearly $29 billion and provided $4.45 billion in charity care, community benefit, and unreimbursed government programs. Learn more at www.commonspirit.org.