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Abbott launches 5 minute coronavirus tests at GoHealth Urgent Care

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GoHealth Urgent Care CEO Todd Latz joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to discuss how the urgent care facility is helping in the fight of the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We want to turn our attention back, though, to coronavirus and steps that are being taken to prevent the spread of that. And one of those steps is testing. And obviously the ability to use a test that can give you results within-- what-- 5 minutes. That would be amazing. And to discuss that, because we have one of these tests from Abbott Laboratories now in play,

Todd Latz is the CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care. He's joining us now to discuss how this test is being used in the San Francisco Bay Area but also, perhaps, getting you out to the country. Todd, good to have you here. How quickly can it be ramped up to get out? What are you seeing?

TODD LATZ: Good morning, Adam, and thanks for having me. So we're seeing a large escalation. So we've been testing in some of our East coast markets from the very beginning of the outbreak, so when it hit the United States. So we have 52 locations in New York and our partnership with Northwell Health where we've been testing-- excuse me-- in the normal lab way. So that's getting a swab from a patient and then waiting days for it to come back.

We just launched earlier this week, as you mentioned, Abbott's new test in our San Francisco market and then in our Pacific Northwest market, as well, which is Portland and Vancouver, Washington. And we're seeing really exciting escalation in terms of the ability to get to patients and get them answers faster. Now, Abbott released about 50,000 of these tests nationwide.

Initially, we've heard from Abbott that they're now producing as much as 50,000 of these new tests a day. So huge, huge escalation in the number of tests. But still, you know, very far short than I think where most of us would like to be in terms of our ability to test more widely.

JULIE HYMAN: And Todd, because of that, I mean, for a long time, the-- in order to get a test, you had to already have symptoms and in some cases have pretty acute symptoms.

TODD LATZ: Right.

JULIE HYMAN: Where are we now on that, because the thinking among the medical community seems to have been that testing is useful as a tracking tool, not just to confirm maybe what you already suspect if you're very ill.

TODD LATZ: That's right. And unfortunately, Julie, we aren't too far beyond where you are just describing which is symptomatic. So the screening protocol is still fairly high, which is exposure plus some form of symptoms. Now, that hopefully will change over the coming days as more tests become available. We're still in a situation where we're using most of these rapid tests for first responders. So that could be police, fire department, any other infrastructure essential workers, and frontline health care workers.

So we are still in a position where the screening guidelines are quite high in terms of who can do it. I think you're exactly right from an epidemiology standpoint. It would be better to do wider testing and be able to get that out into the public. And it's certainly our hope that with continued production of these tests and Abbott being able to get more into the market that we'll be able to lighten those screening criteria and be able to test more of the populace.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Todd, I'm curious. In your personal discussions with Abbott or even-- I don't know if you've had discussions with the US government about the test, what are they actually saying to you about the realistic timeline to get these tests out in the numbers we've been discussing? People can handle bad news. They just need to know it if it's out there.

TODD LATZ: I think that's right. I think it's coming. So we've certainly spoken quite a bit with Abbott directly. And I will say so far, they have hit every target that they told us that they would. So just a week ago today, we did not even have the EUA, right? So Abbott did not have the ability through the FDA to put this test out there. They told us that they would get that last Friday, so a week ago today. That's exactly what happened.

They said that they would be shipping on Monday. We received the test Tuesday midday on the West coast. And we tested a patient that evening. So so far, they've hit every one of those spots in terms of producing it. We're hearing again from Abbott by at the end of April that they will have produced a 5 million tests that's both the rapid test that we're deploying out on the West coast. And then also their PCR's are more large lab-based test that happens oftentimes in separate labs or in a hospital acute setting.

JULIE HYMAN: Todd, beyond testing, you guys are urgent care centers. What kind of influx of patients are you seeing right now with COVID-19, because especially with hospitals overtaxed right now, I would imagine that in some cases, people are turning to you first. So how are you dealing with that increase capacity if you are seeing it?

TODD LATZ: Yes, it's a great question, Julie. So we're seeing pretty different results across the country, so very different dynamic depending on which geography you're in. I think a couple of important points there that you just made-- urgent care-- this is really from our perspective from a GoHealth urgent care perspective what urgent care does. This is what we're here for. And the here is that the primary care office is not a particularly good environment for this outbreak-- something like this.

And we want to protect those emergency departments and the hospitals, right? You have a bigger risk there if you have exposure of shutting off a critical access point. And you have a lot of patients who were needing to go to the hospital for other things that un-COVID-19 related. And urgent care becomes that perfect spot in the continuum to be able to serve in this type of crisis.

What we're seeing in many markets is-- so I'll take in our New York market we're seeing a high, high, percentage of either COVID-positive patients or suspected patients. In other markets, depending again on the geography, how hot that spot is, we might be seeing some other volume. But where we've tried to move the vast majority of that of volume is to virtual. So you're probably hearing quite a bit about that.

We've launched virtual in nearly every one of our markets at this point. And that's a great access point for both COVID-19-related issues and non, because if you don't have a COVID-19-related issue, you really don't want to be in a place where you might be subject to greater exposure. And we've seen an absolute explosion in our volume from a virtual standpoint. So it's a perfect screen.

If you think you have COVID before you get to a test-- and then it's an excellent way to handle any other issues, because, as we know, despite the crisis, everyone else's health care issues haven't just disappeared, right? That health care need is still there. And urgent care is a perfect place to meet it.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Todd, I'm glad you brought up those other issues, you know, the other things that afflict people. What do you see happening? Are people-- you said you're getting a big swarm-- I'm using the word swarm-- but increased volume through TeleMed. But people still need to go to an urgent care sometimes if they have flu or something else that's serious but, perhaps, not serious enough to go to the primary doctor, right?

TODD LATZ: Right. Yeah, so what we're doing there, Adam, is we're essentially triaging it. And what we're trying to do with the COVID-related activity is, is keep our team members, say, first and foremost, right? So for those frontline health care workers, they need to be able to care for people. And we have to keep them safe. And then we're thinking about those patients as well.

And so an example of what we do with the COVID-19 piece is where we're doing that testing-- take the West coast with the Abbott test-- we're actually testing at curbside. So we're keeping patients in their vehicles. We're swabbing them in the vehicle running the test. And we have an answer for them within 15 minutes. They remain in the vehicle the entire time does a couple of things. It allows us to preserve our PPE, which is vital at this time.

But what it also does is it creates an environment in the urgent care center where you can still come in, as you were just suggesting, for something else. And you're not exposing yourself unnecessarily to everything else. And so what we're also doing with the virtual is, that works as a screen.

So if we can handle it virtually, great. And if not and you do need to be physically seen, and that's absolutely the case in certain circumstances, then we can direct you into a center for us. It's completely seamless, the same visit. You only pay once. And that's a great answer for anyone who has something other than COVID-19.

ADAM SHAPIRO: All right, Todd Latz, we appreciate your being here. The CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care. So many people depending on the people who work with your team. And we are grateful for the insight here on Yahoo Finance.