COVID-19 Sparks Innovative Testing

We’re taking a break really quick from talking about chat to address our worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. In our latest podcast with Dave Elkington and Billy Bateman, we learn about the new process of testing for COVID-19 in Utah that Silicone Slopes and Test Utah have implemented and how tests have become even more efficient through utilizing their technology. Here we’re going to break down that process again and dive even deeper. Why is this new method of testing revolutionary?

The Problem With Old Testing

As new innovations start to take over, the flaws of past methods seem more and more glaring. Silicone Slopes and Test Utah have addressed one of the biggest issues with testing in Utah. Testing can be painfully slow. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) works and is known as a reliable way to test for diseases. However, you still have to send samples to the lab, run the test, and then get the information back. This process takes a lot of time, usually 1-3 days. (Michigan Medicine)

They brought in tech professionals to address this issue and created this system for testing. The turnaround rate?

  • About 900 tests at a time.
  • Automation in scheduling appointments and delivering results.
  • And a process that tests in about 3 hours and an overall process of under 24-hours.

The View From the Outside

Say you’ve never researched the process of testing for COVID-19. You’re sitting at home one day and all of a sudden it seems like your food is tasting bland. The next day you’re coughing and running a low fever. Now if you had other symptoms, you might search google until you find out you are on deaths row… but this time you think you know what it is. COVID-19. What do you do?

  1. You go to
  2. Take the assessment (put together by the health department, universities, epidemiologists, and a lot of people who understand what’s necessary for someone to need a test)
  3. You are prompted to schedule a time to test (if needed)- and promptly receive a QR code through email and text
  4. In addition at your time, you drive to the tent and show your QR code to the traffic control police officer for them to scan
  5. The nurse also scans your phone, scans a test kit, pulls out the swab, performs the swap, puts it back in and you’re off (less than 3 minute test time)
  6. Finally you get your results within 24 hours!

To the public, this couldn’t be an easier process! It seems like testing has been, in the past, a workflow problem instead of a healthcare or medicine problem (Dave Elkington). In order to combat that workflow problem, Silicon Slopes and TestUtah have brought in workflow and data scientists. This changed the mindset of solutions, and that combined with the fact that Utah covered the cost so there wouldn’t be issues with insurance coverage, has been working!

The Internal Process of COVID-19 Testing

Now we’ve addressed what the process looks like from the outside. NOW here’s the behind the scenes… When a person logs onto, Qualtrics is surveying the assessments. This integrates straight into a scheduling app. The QR code is generated by Qualtrics, and then the email is sent out to the patient.

Next let’s move onto assembly. We follow 2 groups for the assembly and packaging of the kits. Group A prints the barcodes and puts them in and on the bag. Group B assembles the test kits comprised of 3 things: A swab with a vial that you can store, a reagent (the extraction kit), and the actual kit.

Now for testing: here’s what’s happening for testing in the lab:

  1. First, a nurse swabs the patient and puts the swab in the vial. This vial is then put into a bucket to be taken to the lab.
  2. The samples get to the lab, is scanned along with the other vials in the bucket, then transferred to bins of 46.
  3. The machine that runs tests can hold bins of 46, 2 bins go in a tray, 8 trays- so it can have 900 samples per run, testing 900 people at a time.
  4. Now here’s where it gets a little bit complicated. The process of testing takes about 3 hours.
    • In the first machine, the cell is broken down by washing and the use of different materials. This breaks down the cell wall so that the RNA can be removed from the rest of the cell.
    • In addition, they are using a repurposed 3D printer (the first of its kind in the world) to transfer RNA from the RNA extraction process to the PCR machine. The 3D printer stands as a zero air container, acting as a sucking tray as it takes the RNA out of a vial and puts it in the next tray to do the testing in (PCR machine)
    • The PCR machine runs tests on the RNA using Codiagnostic test kits.
    • Finally, a spreadsheet goes back into the system through Qualtrics, which then delivers it back to the patient. A copy is also sent to the state and national databases. Overall, these measures ensure that all data can be reported on and analyzed.

Innovative Testing for COVID-19 Results

The process for testing has never been approached this way by the healthcare system, and the results have been incredible. It is extremely organized with barcodes and automated send-out. As the world faces a crisis, people tend to stand together to figure out new and innovative ways to respond. This response just happens to be one that can save lives.

For more information about how your business can thrive even with COVID-19 check out this article on how chatbots can help! Above all- stay safe, practice socially responsible measures, and get tested if you’re worried about symptoms or have been in contact with someone that has COVID-19.


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