CVS’s Omnicare Expands COVID-19 Testing At Nursing Homes

July 13, 2020, Maggie Flynn, Skilled Nursing News - A long-term care pharmacy company is not the first entity that comes to mind for testing for a major infectious disease.  But when that company has a major footprint in skilled nursing facilities across the country, it has some resources that lend itself well to the national problem of securing testing for long-term care facilities.

And with three states — Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas — now working with Omnicare, the long-term care arm of the retail pharmacy and insurance company CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), the company believes it can be part of the solution to a pandemic that has affected SNFs all over the U.S.

The goal is to provide testing services to the entire long-term care industry, not just Omnicare’s clients, president Jim Love told Skilled Nursing News on July 8.

“We want to be the solution for the long-term care industry,” Love said.  “We think we’re uniquely positioned given our footprint in the industry … and again, it’s not just focused on our clients, it’s focused on all the clients in North Carolina, Texas, or Pennsylvania, or any other states that we contract with.”

In Pennsylvania, Omnicare is providing 50,000 COVID-19 tests for employees and workers in nursing homes, at no charge, based on a three-tier system.  SNFs with recent or ongoing outbreaks will be first priority under the partnership, first announced June 24 by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

In North Carolina, the state Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is partnering with Omnicare to make testing available facility-wide for residents and staff at all the state’s SNFs.  According to the NCDHHS, there are more than 400 nursing homes in the Tar Heel State, with about 36,000 residents and more than 30,000 staff.

The testing will begin in July and continue through August, according to the June 30 announcement.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on July 10 that Omnicare would provide COVID-19 point-of-care testing for assisted living facilities and nursing homes, with on-site, same-day testing and results for staff and residents, according to the press release.

“We are in active dialogues with numerous other states to provide the same services,” Love told SNN, with the goal to be as flexible as possible, to allow for the variations in approaches by the different states.

“We’ve had one state that said: We’d like to do it point-of-care,” he explained.  “So on point-of-care, an Omnicare team brings a mobile testing unit to the facility, spends the day there testing the patients and the staff.  Other states have asked for what we call a swab-and-send model.

The difference would be on a swab-and-send model, we would send a team to the facility, swab, i.e., collect specimens from the residents and staff and send that to one of our lab partners for testing.  Those are the two modalities that are being deployed.”

That said, there are variations that could be used if a state requested it, Love said, perhaps by swabbing residents, or sending employees to a CVS store or testing site.

One of the program’s main selling points for facility administrators is not just the testing, but the fact that there is “a pretty significant front- and back-end lift that’s associated with this same program,” Omnicare vice president of strategy Derek Darling told SNN on July 8.

That includes issues such as scheduling, confirming the population being tested, double-checking results, and the required reporting to different states, which can be a particular burden for smaller organizations.

Turnaround times for testing is a critical component of halting the spread of COVID-19 in SNFs, but as testing has ramped up in response to demand, there has been “some stretch in the turnaround times,” Love said.  CVS is working with “several independent third-party labs,” though it declined to give a more specific number or even a range.

Still, he said this state of affairs was likely temporary and that turnaround times have been good overall.

“As the demand for testing goes up, as you’re seeing spikes in certain states, you have demand going up pretty rapidly,” Love said.  “So it’ll stretch a little bit, but working with our partners, we’ll get that back under control, back to the good level quickly.”

This issue applies to the “swab-and-send” model, with the target for CVS being less than four days for results; it’s this time that is being “stretched,” sometimes up to seven days, Love said.

At least some states in the South have run into some issues on test results being returned in a timely manner, at least as of early July.

However, in the long-term care environment, the “stretch” Love referenced hasn’t yet appeared, Darling noted; the extended times seem to be “an industry-wide phenomenon,” while the SNF testing results in Pennsylvania and North Carolina are within that four-day target.

“But we’re certainly monitoring that situation very closely,” he added.