Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to build testing infrastructure rapidly was uncommon. However, for Alverno Laboratories, this has become the new norm. The integrated laboratory network of 32 hospitals Alverno serves had an urgent need for SARS-Cov-2 testing. Through its partnerships, Alverno was able to secure multiple instruments and the reagents needed to begin in-house testing in March 2020. The laboratory has since helped to educate physicians on determining what test to utilize and order to suit each patient’s individual needs.
“While working since COVID-19 has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it has also been the most professionally gratifying” Dr. Judy Lyzak stated.
Lyzak, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Alverno Laboratories for the Franciscan Alliance healthcare system, said COVID-19 has forced the exponential collaboration between her and fellow VPMA at Alverno Laboratories for the AMITA Health healthcare system, Dr. Janis Atkinson, as well as the group’s entire hospital network and team of employees. Solutions that previously might have taken years – if not decades – to create have been hatched, finalized and executed within months.
“Collaboration has been paramount,” explained Lyzak. “It’s been the key to our success. The significance that laboratory medicine has made to the contribution of patient care since COVID-19 has been extraordinary. We’ve been working behind the scenes my entire career. However, the pandemic has heightened the public’s awareness of the importance of making sure we get results done fast – and get them right.” Atkinson added, “Everyone in laboratory medicine has never felt prouder because we feel so valuable. And it’s all for the patients.”
According to Atkinson, Hammond-based Alverno is receiving and analyzing thousands of COVID-19 high sensitivity PCR and other COVID-19 tests daily. As the laboratory’s VPMAs, she and Lyzak are pathologists assigned to liaison with AMITA and Franciscan medical staff, create algorithms for testing and assist doctors in understanding which tests work in what capacity. This helps Alverno’s system hospitals understand what resources (swabs, reagents, personnel) are available and how best to conserve them while still providing great levels of patient care.
Within months of COVID-19 reaching the United States, Atkinson and Lyzak helped develop and test an algorithm that predicted how best to handle patients with behavioral and mental health issues. The solution was using testing where results were available within an hour instead taking up to a day as previous testing. Quick turnaround times for test results aided hospital physicians in determining how to best care for patients with potential mental health issues.
“Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a true joint effort and collaboration between all departments. It was amazing to see how fast our team was able to complete tasks that may have taken longer in the past. We had some extraordinarily amazing orders built in our system that are things we had never done before. Everyone recognized the need and significance of what we were trying to accomplish and did their best to make it happen. We can’t thank our staff enough for all of their hard work and dedication” Lyzak pronounced.
Atkinson stressed that execution and quick results are the new normal. “The pandemic has caused us to work together like never before. This has permanently changed the way we work, and it’s for the better.”
Alverno is one of the largest integrated laboratory networks in the United States. It owns and operates 32 hospital laboratories and supports other hospital laboratories in varying degrees throughout Illinois and Indiana, and features a central laboratory performing both clinical and anatomic pathology. Alverno’s innovative, state-of-the-art laboratory offers cost effective testing and personalized customer service, with advanced technology and testing in Precision Medicine/Next-Gen Sequencing, toxicology, pain management and other specialty testing.
Janis Atkinson, MD
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Alverno Laboratories for Presence/AMITA Health Ministries | Medical Director, Laboratory, AMITA Health Saint Francis Hospital Evanston
Judy Lyzak, MD, MBA
Vice President of Medical Affairs for Alverno Laboratories