June 17, 2020

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Waveny LifeCareNetwork has been collaborating with The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine(JAX-GM) and Robert C. Babkowski, MD, MMM, FCAP, Chair of Pathology andLaboratory Medical Director of Stamford Health System, to improve COVID-19testing and accuracy for the Lower Fairfield County region and its families.

False negative results were being highly reportedthroughout the State of Connecticut early on, so Waveny LifeCare Network, oneof the region’s few Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) FiveStar healthcare providers, developed the partnership to run comparativeanalyses at multiple sites.  The testresults are turned around within 24 hours.

This gave Waveny’s clinical staff the clarity it needs totarget patient and resident clinical interventions to support their preventive,wellness, and recovery needs and promote better outcomes. This has provided itsclients and their families with the reassurance they deserve that their lovedones are receiving optimal care despite the ongoing pandemic.  It has been this laser focus on timely andcomprehensive testing with extraordinary confidence that led to Waveny’saccelerated full recovery from COVID.

From the initial introduction to JAX-GM by Waveny’s BoardChairman, Kathleen A. Corbet, the collaboration has been facilitated by WavenyLifeCare Network President and CEO Russell Barksdale, MHA/MPA, FACHE, EdisonLiu, M.D., president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory, and CharlesLee, Ph.D., FACMG, scientific director of The JacksonLaboratory for Genomic Medicine.   Testing, protocols, and algorithms were developedby Mr. Barksdale and Jack V. DiTeodoro M.D., Medical Director for Waveny and StamfordHealth System’s Medical Executive Committee member.

“I am so pleased we can continue to leverage The JacksonLaboratory’s high caliber resources in support of the needs of our patient, residentand broader community, and Stamford Health’s ability to provide comprehensiveon-site testing for our employees and patients. As a result of our partnerships,our clinical efforts could be adjusted in real time, as demonstrated by ourorganization’s vigorous nasopharyngeal PCR swab testing, antibody testing, tracking,and stringent protocols that brought accuracy and timeliness to ourindividualized care plans,” said Barksdale.

“Those patients that were inflicted were primarily ofadvanced age, and most suffer disproportionately from comorbidities that canmake them more susceptible to the virus and its impact. Knowing this, we wantedto implement comprehensive and accurate testing protocols prior to themactually becoming proposed CT DPH or CDC directives. It’s critically importantour testing partners were able to equip us with precise laboratory test measurementsas the tools for us to target the right clinical interventions at the righttime to protect the health, safety and wellness of our community.  Clinical measures like cycle thresholds matterfor PCR, as well as, a patient’s ability to increase antibodies over time.”

“Using the ramped-up testing, we proactively developedkey protocols under my guidance, like proper cohorting of patients to mitigatethe spread of the virus,” said Waveny LifeCare Network’s Medical Director, JackV. DiTeodoro M.D., affiliated with Stamford Hospital.  

“The importance of increased testing with a rapidturn-around-time for results for our most vulnerable populations and our frontline workers cannot be overstated,” said Edison T. Liu, M.D., The JacksonLaboratory.  “At JAX, we are committed to addressing the COVID-19 pandemicquickly and effectively – from breedinga crucial mouse model for COVID-19 research to helping ensurescientific continuity for researchers around the globe to rampingup our COVID-19 testing capabilities in partnership with theState of Connecticut.  We are honored to collaborate with Mr. Barksdaleand his team to ensure that Waveny is able to keep its patients, residents andtheir families safe, informed, and able to provide the crucial health andsafety testing services its community depends on.”

JAX’s Connecticut-licensed CLIA (Clinical LaboratoryImprovement Amendments) and CAP-accredited laboratory in Farmington had, untilrecently, focused on complex tumor profiling assays to help cancer patients andtheir clinicians learn more about specific tumors to try to identify the mostappropriate treatment options for patients. When the pandemic hit, the nonprofit was quickly able to adaptits capabilities to now also test patient samples for a specific RNAsignature unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Stamford Health System and Stamford Hospital were in thecrosshairs of this pandemic, and experienced the most COVID-19 cases in Connecticut.In effect, being in the hot-zone made us flex and work harder than ever toprovide laboratory services to those facing the disease.  The SHLaboratory (SHLab) has now tested themost patients in Connecticut, and has now moved its focus from symptomatic,acutely ill patients to those at highest risk – the elderly at nursing homesand assisted living facilities and their caregivers throughout Connecticut.  With leadership from David Reed MD, SHLabpresented to the CT Nursing Home Association, a reproducible, scalable, andpractical process for timely testing of first responders, the elderly and theircaregivers, and at risk populations. I am enormously proud of the SHLab teamthat made this possible” said Dr.Babkowski.

“SHLab is the laboratory service provider for Waveny andit is through this relationship that we were able to work effectively with RussBarksdale to test all their residents and staff. In effect, Waveny has joinedand led the ranks of other forward thinking pro-active nursing home andassisted living facilities in Connecticut to get baseline COVID-19 testing forthose who need it most” said Dr.Babkowski.

Accurate and expanded testing is one of the key elementsof our way out of this pandemic followed by adjusting care plans for eachindividual to maximize their production of antibodies and full recovery.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saysthat as many as 25-35% of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but are capableof spreading the illness to other people.

“The more we test accurately, the better our patients’outcomes are,” said Barksdale.


AboutThe Jackson Laboratory

The JacksonLaboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution withmore than 2,200 employees. Headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, it has aNational Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a genomic medicineinstitute in Farmington, Conn., and facilities in Ellsworth, Maine, Sacramento,Calif., and Shanghai, China. Its mission is to discover precise genomicsolutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the sharedquest to improve human health. For more information, please visit http://www.jax.org.

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