Children's National Running COVID-19 Tests On-Site for Results Within 90 Minutes

Testing machine used for doctors, nurses and patients at the hospital

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What to Know

  • A testing machine at Children's National Hospital can return results in 90 minutes
  • Three tests can be performed simultaneously
  • Fast results allow for conservation of personal protective equipment

As doctors and nurses around the country work to conserve personal protective equipment while fighting COVID-19, Children's National Hospital has developed a way to limit its use by quickly finding out if patients have the virus. They’re getting test results back in just 90 minutes. 

"It really is a game changer to be able to test and get a result quickly," said Dr. Meghan Delaney, the hospital's chief of the Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

As of March 13, the hospital been able to run dozens of its own COVID-19 tests on an internal machine, made by another company off-site. The machine can run three tests at a time.

"What is wonderful about having the in-house testing and having the results really fast is that we can make really quick decisions on what needs to happen," Delaney said.

For example, they don't need to waste valuable personal protective equipment, which is in short supply, if a patient is immediately found to be negative for the coronavirus.

Children's National Hospital

They are also testing their own doctors and nurses who begin to show symptoms. The faster the results, the faster they can be isolated to limit spread of the disease.


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"Every health care facility is really dealing with the same thing," Delaney said. "And it is a real concern."

They're also keeping careful track of the supply of test kits, swabs and the solution used to take samples and run the tests; those are also at critically low levels. But Delaney said with recent Food and Drug Administration approvals and some innovation, they're expanding the machine's capability.

"We could do with the current machine about 45 [tests] a day. But we are rapidly increasing that capacity to be able to do many, many more — hopefully by the end of the week," Delaney said. 

She said the hospital will continue to innovate as the crisis expands and supplies run low.

"We're also considering creative ways to be able to make the pieces of the collection kit here ... if we can no longer get them from suppliers," Delaney said.

She's planning for the hospital to be able to run hundreds of tests a day.

So far, only one doctor and one patient have tested positive. That patient was in the emergency room and did not have severe enough symptoms to be admitted to the hospital.

The hospital also developed a separate drive-thru test site nearby for children and young adults who are not sick enough to require a hospital visit.

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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