The demand for lab directors has increased as the number of non-waived COVID labs continue to grow. For this past year, we had successfully placed high complexity lab directors for all our clients that requested for this service. Our lab director program does not have any recurring monthly fee, the lab will pay a one-time upfront payment roughly equaling to the monthly compensation of the lab director. The lab director and the lab can negotiate the terms of the agreement directly, a template will be provided as a starting point. Allowing the lab director and the lab to negotiate directly ensures the agreement will be beneficial to both parties. We have lab directors that's licensed in states that required separate state license, including: California, Florida, Hawaii and New York.
Some experts believe home testing will be the key to end the pandemic, but there has been a lot of confusion on home testing due to differences in home collection vs actual testing.
Home collection kit - The LabCorp’s Pixel COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit allows individuals to self-collect a nasal swab, then send it to LabCorp for testing without a doctor’s order. There are also other self collection kits for nasal and saliva that require a doctor’s order. The advantage of home collection kit is patients can avoid the long line at the drive thru collection site, the test will be performed by CLIA high complexity labs and using PCR which is more sensitive than antigen testing. One of the major disadvantages of home collection kits is turnaround time the patient must wait days for the lab to run the test.
Home testing kit - currently there are both FDA EUA molecular and antigen test kits available, the patient will collect and test the sample at their own home. With at home testing, the result is available in minutes to the individual. The Ellume antigen test is the only home test that doesn’t require a doctor’s order, both the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test and Lucira Health molecular test required a doctor’s order. The sensitivity and detection limit is lower than lab performed PCR test.
Home testing supply is currently extremely limited and production is unlikely to ramp up until Spring of next year. Laboratory-based testing would still be a key to control the pandemic in the near future.
The COVID-19 testing supply chain had been under pressure almost a year now from swab, UTM, extraction reagent, pipette tip, analyzer, biosafety hood to COVID reagents. But the biggest shortage that remains unsolved is waived point of care (POC) molecular testing. Currently, all analyzers and test kits that’s capable of waived point of care COVID molecular testing are on backorder; there are labs with analyzers but unable to secure test kits and supplies isn’t guaranteed.
Antigen testing is emerging as an alternative as the supply problem with POC molecular testing challenge isn’t expected to be resolved anytime soon. Then comes the FDA warning letter in November alerting clinical labs and providers of false positive antigen tests. In the FDA letter the problems outlined included:
On 11/17/20 the FDA issued EUA to Lucira Health All-In-One Test Kit, this is the first test kit allowing anyone over 14 years old to perform self-testing at home. This is definitely a game-changer and many entrepreneurs planning to startup and mobile/pop up lab owners are trying to understand the impact this will have on their business model moving forward. While the technology and the FDA approval are a game changer, but the impact of Lucira approval will be likely minimal in the near future and shouldn’t discourage anyone from starting up a lab. There is still a lot of barriers to break through before the test can make an impact:
At home testing isn’t the end of the mobile/pop up COVID lab, there are still opportunities to open up your own mobile and pop up COVID lab.
There are an increasing number of entrepreneurs wanting to start up new business ventures around COVID testing but without operating a lab. Some of the areas included:
I have worked with clients where the only reason they start looking for a lab consultant is because they received a cease-and-desist letter from CMS or a notice from FDA their company website contains misleading information.
Hiring a lab consultant early on during the business planning process, not only can help entrepreneurs avoid legal actions by CMS, FDA, and State regulators. But an experienced lab consultant can provide valuable insight into the laboratory industry and help make connections.
At CLIA Lab Consultant, we provide startup consultation for $1,000 covering 2 hours of work, for the following topics: CLIA, CMS, State regulations (if applicable), FDA, EUA, Mobile/Temporary Site testing, OSHA, safety regulations, insurance, billing, ICD-10, CPT code and reimbursement.
When I get calls regarding COVID lab startup, people will ask about the time it takes to get the lab up and running. They usually ask about reagent, analyzer, Biosafety cabinet (BSC), space requirement, etc., but often no one asks about LIMS/LIS initially.
Most labs would be going with a cloud-based system as it offers faster implementation and does not require on-site IT support. A google search on cloud-based LIMS will turn up a huge selection of vendors. Many of the cloud-based LIMS/LIS will appear very similar in terms of functionalities; it is often difficult for labs to evaluate which system is better based on demo and promotional material.
Clinical vs industry system
Some LIMS started in other industries (agriculture, cannabis, chemical processing, environmental, food/beverage and manufacturing) before entering clinical. It is important to know that healthcare and clinical labs are unique, repackage LIMS from other industries and selling it to clinical labs is not going to be a good system.
For COVID lab startup some basic LIMS function requirements include interfacing with molecular analyzers, physician/patient portal and reportable disease reporting to the public health department using HL7 and/or CSV files. Have the LIMS vendor provide the billable hours needed for each function ahead of time, if the LIMS vendor had experience in lab setup, they should not have a problem guaranteeing the hours needed.
Get reference: be specific and ask questions
Always ask for a couple references to contact and be specific, if setting up a high complexity COVID-19 PCR lab with multiple interfaces, patient/physician portal and HL7 public health reporting, ask the LIMS vendor to provide references that are using the same functionality.
As part of CLIA lab startup service, we would assist the lab in selecting the right LIMS and participate in conference calls with the LIMS vendor as needed, there is no additional charge for this service. As we recognize LIMS implementation is an integral part of the startup process and it is in the best interest of the laboratory to have an experienced lab consultant that can provide guidance to the lab.
I was asked if it was too late to start up a molecular COVID lab with the vaccine under review by the FDA and existing labs being more prepared for higher volume. The answer is no, there is still time to start up a molecular COVID lab to recoup the startup cost and be profitable. There are advantages for labs that are starting up now.
Starting a business is fraught with risks and especially in times of uncertainty like a pandemic. On the other hand, uncertainty also creates significantly more reward opportunities for those willing to take on the risk. At CLIA Lab Consultant we go beyond ensuring your lab is compliant with all regulations, but also for financial viability as well.
In the past few weeks, we have been getting phone calls daily on how to start up Temporary Sites/Mobile COVID testing lab. The popularity of Temporary Sites/Mobile testing is driven by the increasing number of FDA EUA point of care testing options and the need to improve access to COVID-19 testing especially for return to work and safe reopening. Here are some advantages in starting up Temporary Sites/Mobile COVID testing labs.
Startup: We had helped labs obtain CLIA certification and complete setup Temporary Sites/Mobile COVID testing lab in less than one week.
Supplies: Testing supplies can be obtained within 1-2 week. We had contact with distributors that can help your lab, obtain both waived antigen and antibody test kit.
Reimbursement: We had helped labs gaining access to reimbursement through government programs and private insurances.
The holiday season and the rising case of COVID-19 had increased demand for testing, which created opportunities for Temporary Sites/Mobile COVID labs. But the window of opportunity to COVID-19 testing lab is not going to be here for long, the COVID-19 vaccine has been submitted for FDA EUA approval and the recent FDA approval of at home COVID-19 testing means likely the mobile testing market would only be demanded until around spring/summer of next year.
If you are an entrepreneur wanting to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, give us a call 909-294-8890 or email CLIALabConsultant@gmail.com for a consultation.