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I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Adam Schechter, CEO of LabCorp, who had been informed by a CEO Daily reader of my abysmal 10-day wait for COVID-19 test results. Schechter apologized, and said the company is now getting results out much faster.
My test was July 3, I noted. He had stood on the White House lawn in mid-March and said his company was spending “every second of every day” and was “committed to doing everything possible” to increase testing. What happened?
“Let me explain it to you,” he responded. “The first thing is, irrespective of what I thought we would need, my philosophy has been to build as much capacity as we possibly can to get fastest turnaround, irrespective of cost. We have bought every piece of equipment we could buy. I have even bought used equipment. We are buying every reagent we can buy.”
But the problem, he says, is that his suppliers serve a global market, and face surging demand everywhere. “If I could have gotten more machines and reagents, I would have done it. We could not have built capacity any faster and gotten testing done any faster than we did.”
Schechter says LabCorp was doing two or three thousand tests a week in March, and is now doing 165,000 tests a day. The company’s 14 labs are operating seven days a week–including the July 4 holiday–and three shifts a day. And if one lab gets behind, the tests are rerouted to another lab.
One thing that would help, he says, is if the public had clear guidelines on who needs–and who doesn’t need–to be tested. He thinks it should be 1) people who have symptoms, or 2) people who have been exposed to someone who has symptoms or tested positive. But recently, people have been getting tests because they want to travel, or because they are required to get it for work (sometimes multiple times a week), or myriad other reasons.
In addition to building up capacity as quickly as possible, Schechter says he established two other principles for the company’s efforts from the beginning:
–Everybody would pay the Medicare price, and there would be no up-front, out-of-pocket costs for anybody.
–Nobody would be prioritized over anybody else–regardless of rank, position, money, etc.
The only exception to the third rule is one requested by the CDC, which asked that tests from hospital inpatients be prioritized.
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