Medical companies of all varieties have had to make significant changes to their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Avellino is no exception. Known for developing state of the art diagnostic tests, like the world’s first genetic test to determine predisposition for keratoconus and corneal dystrophy, the company has leapt into action to become one of the top providers of COVID-19 testing.
CAKE Magazine CEO and publisher had a chance to discuss Avellino’s current affairs with their COO, Scott Korney and gained some insight into just how they’re contributing to the medical industry and society at large.
Testing’s Impacts on Ophthalmology
Avellino has temprorarily shifted their focus to mainly concentrate on the pandemic that’s been dominating headlines for some time. As Mr. Korney put it, “We have scaled up significantly in response to the overwhelming demand within the United States. Our customers in the eyecare industry have been strongly supportive of us and understanding while we shifted our focus in this way.”
Although Avellino is concentrating on diagnostic testing, this concentration can have a significant impact on the ophthalmic industry. “We launched a program called ACTS, and this program is tailored for the eyecare and healthcare world, to help the practices get back in business,” said Mr. Korney. “We have a menu and recommendations that will help practices both test their staff and make sure that everyone within the offices is healthy as well as using it as a pre-test for their patients before they come in. They come in quickly and get tested and then they return for surgery a few days later.” He added, “This can all be seen not only on our press release but also, we designed a special webpage for this program that can also be accessed, www.avellinocoronatest.com/acts-program.”
Testing for the virus before any ophthalmic procedure is crucial for all aspects of the practice: Everyone knows by now how infectious the virus is. Avoiding infections for patients, doctors, and staff — anyone who deals with a practice, really — is of paramount importance. Most everything else pales in comparison.
Tip Top Testing
The testing that Avellino provides really is top of the line. Avellino’s laboratory is Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified — a hallmark of a truly professional lab. Furthermore, the company has received the official nod from the US government to conduct widespread testing. As Mr. Korney said, “We have received the FDA’s Emergecy Use Authorization (EUA) for the Covid-19 for testing and we’re very proud of that because there aren’t many independent, high complexity, high-throughput labs that have received that approval. We run a CLIA certified laboratory, which is the industry standard and have the FDA EUA to do the testing as well.”
And they should be proud of it — getting such a certification isn’t easy. “Because we’re a regulated laboratory, we have to follow clear standards and guidelines in terms of having clear operating procedures for the lab and handling of data, then having the validation performed followed by regular audits, and really adhering to rigorous licensing requirements,” said Mr. Korney. He continued, “In addition to that we needed to get the FDA’s EUA. That required providing them with confirmation testing as well to demonstrate that we have the qualifications and the methods to do an effective testing program here.”
So, if you’re wondering who to rely on for testing, Avellino is as legitimate as it gets. That’s good news. But what about turnaround times? Many tests take between three to five days, or even up to a week. For someone looking to return to work or even to go into public, that is a long time to wait. However, Avellino’s tests are significantly faster than average.
“We’re providing most results in 24 hrs, but we guarantee a 48 hour turnaround on our testing,” said Mr. Korney. “We have exceeded that consistently.”
He noted that the test Avellino uses is the rt-PCR test that detects viral RNA, rather than the antigen or antibody tests, which are generally less reliable for clinical diagnosis and decision making. The RNA test simply answers the question of if you have the virus currently. The antigen test, on the other hand, looks for the proteins of the virus, and the antibody test that relies on the immune system to tell you if you have the virus or may have had it. The PCR test is especially important for detecting the virus in asymptomatic or early-incubation patients who may not yet be aware they have it.
The company distributes the nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal test kits many have become familiar with to clinics, and then the test kits are returned to the lab overnight delivery via FedEx, UPS, or a similar company. From the test to the results, it usually takes one day, though two in a worst case scenario is possible. That’s much faster than normal.
A Helping Hand
The medical industry relies on diagnostic tests to determine the best way forward for, well, just about everything. The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the high water mark for testing, but only time will tell. The main point now is to practice the hippocratic oath and prevent harm in clinics — to everyone involved.
“We’re dealing with risk to the physicians and to their staff,” said Mr. Korney, “So the first step is to protect the patient by knowing the staff are free of the active virus at the time of testing. Then, once you have that baseline, you use your best distancing, PPE and sterilization practices to try to stay healthy and safe. The next step is to protect the staff from the patients. Particularly, when surgery is involved, we need to test patients to see if they could be asymptomatic and to see that patients are not going to be at risk of spreading the virus into the practice. This helps protect the staff and physicians at the practice.”
It’s reassuring to know just how much thought and effort is going into preventing the virus’s spread in the medical community. Doctors and patients alike can be comforted to know that they’ve got this kind of support behind them.
“We’re very committed just to doing the right thing,” said Mr. Korney. “It’s a privilege for a company to be in a position where we can allocate our resources in this way.”