A three-year, $220,000 grant from Florida Blue to UF Health Pathology Laboratories will fund the purchase of a laboratory information management system, technology that will help ensure rapid and accurate COVID-19 pooled testing.
Michael J. Clare-Salzler, M.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine, said the pooled testing technique employed by UF Health Pathology Laboratories increases the testing capacity four-fold, making testing much more efficient. This allows the lab to do more tests with fewer test reagents and at a lower cost.
A laboratory information management system, or LIMS, tracks all information about the sample, the workflow and testing reagent use throughout the lab process.
“The LIMS is essential to keeping the complex COVID-19 testing environment operating smoothly and accurately,” said Clare-Salzler.
UF Health Pathology Laboratories began processing COVID-19 tests in March when the virus moved into North Central Florida. Employees working in shifts around the clock, seven days a week, began processing up to 800 tests daily, despite a national shortage of critical testing supplies.
“Florida Blue was magnificent in their generosity in supporting the LIMS system implementation. It’s a great win for UF,” said Clare-Salzler, who explained the grant from Florida Blue will promote additional long-term solutions, not just for COVID-19 testing, but for other types of complex molecular tests commonly performed at UF Health Pathology Laboratories.
“Overall, the LIMS system will markedly enhance laboratory speed, function and efficiency,” he said.
Florida Blue President and CEO Pat Geraghty said Florida Blue supports UF Health Pathology Laboratories’ cost- and time-efficient efforts to ensure Floridians can safely return to their workplaces and schools across the state.
“When we learned of the groundbreaking work that UF Health is doing to make COVID-19 testing more cost-efficient on a large scale, we knew we wanted to help make that solution a reality,” said Geraghty. “This model of pooled testing significantly reduces costs and can be duplicated by other labs, making it possible to do the testing that needs to be done so Floridians can more safely return to their jobs and schools. Florida Blue is supporting UF Health with a three-year grant because we know that this needs to be a long-term solution.”
Florida Blue is more than tripling its COVID-19 community investments to over $7 million. In March, the insurer provided an initial $2 million to organizations across the state to address urgent health and safety needs. Florida Blue will invest an additional $2.5 million to provide access to testing and health care, food security and other essential needs for Floridians. Additionally, the insurer plans to contribute more than $2.6 million to United Way organizations across Florida.