Women standing in front of testing machine.

Innovation in the testing process has played a critical role in strengthening the ACT’s defences against COVID-19.

09 September 2020

New technology is helping the hard-working ACT Pathology lab team to make sure Canberrans receive their COVID-19 test results as quickly as possible.

Innovation in the testing process has played a critical role in strengthening the ACT’s defences against COVID-19 and has led to interest from interstate counterparts seeking to improve their own testing systems.

Lynette Chairuka, a scientist in Molecular Pathology, is one of the staff who have been using a new machine that allows loading of COVID-19 samples in any order at any time, eliminating batch constraints and making the process even faster.

Batching requires a sufficient number of specimens to be available before the testing run can start, in order to run most efficiently and maximise the use of components required for testing.

For example, with the new machine, if there are 40 samples awaiting testing, ACT Pathology can proceed where previously they required 90 to go forward.

ACT Pathology pre-trained a team of its scientists in the use of machine before bringing it online last week and will roll out training of other staff in coming weeks.

Lynette says ACT Pathology now has four types of COVID-19 tests run on different types of machines.

“This gives us flexibility to manage the need to run urgent tests for hospital patients and residential aged care residents without impacting on the turnaround time for tests that have come in via GPs as well as walk-in and drive through services,” she said.

“Most of those tested will receive their result the next day, with the majority before business hours to help them to make decisions about attending work or school.”

ACT Pathology recently upgraded its SMS system for COVID-19 test result notifications so that this process is automated, ensuring Canberrans receive their result sooner.

The interfacing of results from the machine into the pathology information system is saving hours in data entry and reducing the risk of error – this was taking two staff eight hours per day at the high of testing in July.

The procurement team and IT team have been key to ensuring ACT Pathology could reduce the turnaround of testing for the Canberra community.

All machinery procured this year to boost ACT Pathology’s COVID-19 testing capacity can be used for testing for other diseases in the future.

All Canberra

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