State partnering with Lilly to speed up COVID-19 test processing

The state of Indiana is partnering with Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. and the Indiana Hospital Association to increase the capacity for labs that are processing COVID-19 tests.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said during Wednesday’s press briefing that the partnership will allow a network of 10 labs across the state to be able to process more tests.

Box said labs have struggled to obtain enough reagents and other equipment needed to perform the tests, which has delayed how quickly individuals can receive test results.

“The network will leverage the state’s buying power to more efficiently compete for supplies, equipment and for reagents with both the national and international manufacturers of those items,” Box said.

The state has already placed a $60 million bulk order for reagents, which are expected to arrive in early July, Box said.

The labs will purchase the reagents from the state at cost.

Box said once the reagents arrive, the state will be able to double its current testing capacity.

She said the Indiana Hospital Association is expected to work with its members to increase the number of testing sites as processing capacity increases.

“I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity,” Box said.

The state boosted its testing capacity in May through a contract with OptumServe, a subsidiary of United Health Group, to open 50 testing sites across the state. But test processing has continued to be slow in some cases.

Box said on Friday that OptumServe has not been meeting its contractual obligation to provide test results within a 48-hour window. Part of the problem has been attributed to the necessity to send tests to out-of-state labs. But, even with local labs processing the tests, the turnaround time was about 55 hours.

On Wednesday, Box said 90% of the tests conducted by OptumServe within the past week did meet the 48-hour turnaround time frame.

The state has extended its contract with OptumServe through the end of June.

Box and Gov. Eric Holcomb defended that decision on Wednesday.

Holcomb said the work OptumServe was hired to do “has never been done before,” and the data the state is receiving through those testing sites has been important to helping his administration make decisions about reopening the economy.

Box said there was a “rocky start” when opening the first OptumServe testing sites, but the company has “worked with us tremendously well.”

Holcomb said he’s recommending OptumServe to other governors.

“We will continue to work with Optum,” Holcomb said.

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