A how-to-guide to building a robust SARS-CoV-2 testing program at a university-based health system


When South Florida became a hotspot for COVID-19 disease in March 2020, we faced an urgent need to develop test capability to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. We assembled a transdisciplinary team of knowledgeable and dedicated physicians, scientists, technologists and administrators, who rapidly built a multi-platform, PCR- and serology- based detection program, established drive-thru facilities and drafted and implemented guidelines that enabled efficient testing of our patients and employees. This process was extremely complex, due to the limited availability of needed reagents, but outreach to our research scientists and to multiple diagnostic laboratory companies and government officials enabled us to implement both FDA authorized and laboratory developed testing (LDT)-based testing protocols. We analyzed our workforce needs and created teams of appropriately skilled and certified workers, to safely process patient samples and conduct SARS-CoV-2 testing and contact tracing. We initiated smart test ordering, interfaced all testing platforms with our electronic medical record, and went from zero testing capacity, to testing hundreds of healthcare workers and patients daily, within three weeks. We believe our experience can inform the efforts of others, when faced with a crisis situation.