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COVID-19 testing 'will become part of life' going forward: Bloom Health Partners CEO

Bloom Health Partners CEO Andrew Morton joins Yahoo Finance to discuss how the company provides occupational health services.

Video Transcript

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, folks, it is 2022, and we do remain in a pandemic, as a reminder. But we do have tools now to help us minimize the risk. And Bloom Health is one of those companies helping to deploy the tool of testing. Andrew Morton is the CEO of Bloom Health Partners. He joins us from Vancouver live now.

Andrew, it's great to have you on the program. Your company not only helps set up testing in schools, but you're also working on some pretty big production projects in Hollywood with the likes of "Yellowstone" and "Ozark." I haven't seen those shows. I'm not a big TV show watcher, but obviously big productions there. What's the demand looking like for your services? I understand that you have your hands pretty full right now.

ANDREW MORTON: We certainly do. We have facilities in Atlanta, Georgia, New York, and Dallas, where our primary lab's at. And we are doing testing for some major TV productions, film productions. You mentioned "Ozark," which is certainly one of the ones we've worked with, and a number of others as well we're getting ready to announce. The New York base is also quite active. It's really become a requirement in general for, you know, whether it's SAG, Screen Actors Guild, or the unions for regular testing. And in general, the productions want to see this just for assurety for operations.

AKIKO FUJITA: Andrew, we'll get into the testing pipeline in just a bit, but, you know, by nature of the scale of testing that you do, you've got a pretty good pulse on what's happening right now. It feels like we've kind of gone past the peak of the wave with Omicron, but what do things look like from your standpoint in terms of the disruptions that we're still seeing?

ANDREW MORTON: Great question. Heading into 2022, six months ago, if somebody were to ask me if we'd be testing in this kind of volumes this time of year, I would have said no. I don't think anybody expected Omicron to do what it's done, which is certainly make its way across the country and, frankly, around the world. What we're expecting now on the go forward is testing will become, unfortunately, or fortunately, part of life, I think.

You know, we're not necessarily just a testing company. We're an occupational health business that does a number of other things. We have a digital platform that tracks everything from the tests we run for the studios to other kinds of health conditions. And really, what we expect is, as part of going to work or part of going to regular events, I think testing will be required to some degree, hopefully.

And touch wood we don't see more variants, but that's always a possibility. At the very least, if the mechanism is in place, then there's safety. And I think the bigger component to it is if we're running a digital platform as part of this where we're using some intelligence, we can start planning around this and then hopefully get it to a place where we can test a little less and do a little more forward thinking around how we're going to operate.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Andrew, what does Bloom offer that kind of workspaces couldn't get by just buying a bunch of tests? I mean, it seems like the availability of it is certainly better now than it was during the peak of Omicron or even during the beginning of the testing availability in 2021. What is it about what you offer that allows for more comprehensive insurance against someone infected being around other people?

ANDREW MORTON: The main thing is the innovation. You know, we are doing testing in the labs primarily, although we do help manage self-tests as well. The difference is that we bring intelligence to the model, rather than just throwing volume at the problem and just sending out tests, and that's all that people are doing in many cases, because that's been a requirement. We're adding a digital component to this.

So for example, in Texas, where we're doing K to 12 testing across the state of Texas for schools, we announced this a couple of weeks ago. The state of Texas, many of the schools are getting rapid tests from us, but the bigger component of this is the digital component. So every time a child tests, it's digitally logged. And now there's some planning that can happen within the state level, the government level, not on the individual students themselves, but just in general, what the general numbers are, as things are planning for this. And they can actually real-time see what the wave is doing.

The problem with self-tests, if there's nobody recording it, then it really-- the test is really only good-- as good as that snapshot in time for that individual. But there's no planning involved. And I think with intelligence, organizations can now start to think about who's been tested, how often they've been tested, when the next test should happen, and maybe hopefully, hopefully get to a place where you can get a cadence of maybe every other week, instead of every week, or something like that. So at least we can start predicting some of this.

AKIKO FUJITA: What do things look like from a supply standpoint? I mean, I think those of us-- a lot of us are still recovering from this last month where we had to wait in very long lines to get tested. In some cases, people had to cancel their trips because they couldn't get the test results in time. Have things improved on that front? I realize part of this is about processing the lab results close to where the testing is actually happening. But in terms of supply, is there enough now in place for the next wave?

ANDREW MORTON: That's starting to happen. I think we're getting better at this. And I think if we start using data intelligence and start planning ahead, then we don't have to be here again, where, you know, truly, the last couple of weeks, there certainly was a shortage of tests. I think everybody was very aware of that. And you see the images around the world of, you know, people lining up for the test and all that. I don't think we need to be there if we start planning ahead. If the scientific community starts working more closely with folks like ourselves, which we do, I think there's a way around some of the lineups that we're seeing.

In terms of supply chains, I think the world has adjusted to this. I think the expectation now is we're going to see another wave. And even if that never happens, at least we're going to be prepared for that. But if we're using data and intelligence for this, as we do for the business, I mean, we're-- Bloom is really in the business of helping organizations, so school boards, Fortune 500, film and TV productions. We're helping them plan for at least their testing needs to keep them operating.

And we can say quite proudly that we kept people like "Ozark" running throughout their run in some of the darker days of the pandemic. Going forward, if they start planning ahead for when they think they're going to need tests and start gearing up for some of those things, which we can give them the intelligence around, that's the way out of this. Just throwing volume will put us back into a supply chain problem. I think the best way is data and planning.

BRIAN CHEUNG: You know, producers do tell me that, apparently, "Ozark" is a cool show, so I'll have to go check it out. But I did want to ask you, just in instances, for example, where it's not self-testing, right, if there-is someone on site that's kind of helping to administer some of these tests, have you seen any sort of labor shortage issues? We know in the nursing industry, for example, a lot of burnout and just a lot of concern. It's actually had a lot of people leaving the industry, which, in some cases, has led to a shortage. Is that something that's also extended to testing as well?

ANDREW MORTON: There's a ton of fatigue around COVID I think among everybody that's a frontline worker. We've really worked hard to keep from having staffing problems. You know, we do have staff now across the state of Alabama, across state of Texas, for the school districts that we test, K-12 in both cases. Of course, for the productions that we do, we really-- because there is a preproduction period, luckily, in our case, we have the ability to plan ahead for some of this.

For the Fortune 500 clients we have, for the occupational health programs where we already have clinicians and those sorts of things that we're bringing on to do other kinds of things, many of them are happy to start looking at things beyond COVID because there's definitely some fatigue around that. But that really back to planning and using data, I think that's the way past this.

And the one thing nobody is really talking about right now, of course, is what about the mental health ramifications of all of this? PTSD is a very real thing. I think healthcare workers can benefit from, quite frankly, some kind of mental health programs around some of this. And I think our forward thinking around what we're doing for companies around mental health could probably work for healthcare workers as well, for our own employees.