Podcast: PGA is among Sanford Health’s unique partnerships

Sanford Labs leader Rochelle Odenbrett describes COVID-19 testing on golf tour

A Sanford provider talks to a Sanford Health News host over podcasting microphones in a conference room.

Episode Transcript

Simon Floss: Hello, and welcome to Innovations. A brand new podcast series brought to you by the experts at Sanford Health. You’re listening to our 13th episode from the clinic to the course Sanford unique partnerships. I’m your host, Simon Floss, with Sanford Health News. The practice of medicine goes far beyond clinic walls. The Innovations Podcast looks at the biggest issues facing health care today. Each episode offers the opportunity to see the ever changing world of health and wellness through new eyes. Our leaders offer out of the box solutions to some nagging questions. Today we’re talking with the Senior Executive Director of Sanford Laboratories, Rochelle Odenbrett, who will give us unique insight into one of the most high profile partnerships Sanford Health is involved in. Thanks for being here with us Rochelle.

Rochelle Odenbrett: Thank you, Simon.

Host: Last time we sat down with Executive Vice President of Sanford Health, Micah Aberson, where he talked about the history of the Sanford International among many more topics where keeping that golf theme going. Because recently we announced that we’re the official COVID-19 testing partner of the PGA Tour, and you had a lot to do with it. Talk about that partnership a little bit. Why Sanford over other health care providers?

Odenbrett: Sanford has a pretty rich history with the PGA Tour, especially with having the Sanford International here in our backyard. It was just kind of a natural partnership. And when the PGA Tour found out that we had a mobile testing option available, they reached out with this partnership that Micah has had a history of and asked if we could provide a solution for them. So it seemed to be a natural fit for us.

Host: And you were in charge of planning out how these mobile testing units would work. Where did you get your inspiration for that? And what went into planning?

Odenbrett: So interestingly, we were actually responding to an outbreak in a meatpacking plant in one of our local communities. And we were brainstorming around the table one day and we were really trying to figure out how we could get the samples back to our main reference lab for testing in a rapid timeframe. And I just said to the team, I wish we could mobilize the testing to them rather than have them bring the samples to us. And from there, the idea just grew, developing a mobile lab where we could do COVID testing anywhere at any time.

Host: How long did it take you to develop that process or those procedures?

Odenbrett: So, the initial truck was kicked off and developed in under three weeks. It was a huge task for our team. Fortunately, we had the trucks available. We had some mobile clinics that were up in the North Dakota area and used during the oil boom. And so we redeployed those trucks and made them into mobile labs.

Host: What does that say about just how fluid and quick moving Sanford is?

Odenbrett: You know, it says a lot. Sanford has always been very innovative and creative in how they respond to not only public health needs, but the needs of our patients. And I think that, that says a lot about our ability and our administrators’ support of the efforts and the ideas that come forward from leaders.

Host: The announcement happened over a month ago, which is hard to believe because the summer is just flying by as they always do. So if someone missed that, what do the testing units look like and how do they operate?

Odenbrett: So, we have three testing units. The first two kind of look like large campers where we’ve got a couple of different rooms in them. And one of the rooms is a small testing lab. The other room is a large area where we receive the samples in. We have bar coding capabilities, faxing capabilities, right on the trucks, there’s internet right there. So we can hook into our medical record immediately. It’s a secure internet source. And then the results go from our medical record directly into a medical record that is developed for the PGA tours and staff immediately, as soon as we resolve the samples. So the interface is there, and it’s a really neat setup.

Host: Is that unique and hard to come by to have that type of technology on a mobile unit?

Odenbrett: It really is because there’s a lot of security that goes around it. And so there was a lot of development and important levels of making sure that we maintain the HIPAA compliance so that there isn’t any breaches of confidentiality.

Host: What does this partnership say about the leadership and research at Sanford?

Odenbrett: Well, again, I think it goes back to the innovations and creativity that we have as an organization and how we’re always encouraged to think outside of the box and come up with different solutions. And we’re always supported in that. And I think our leaders here just to think differently and creatively and we get the support to make things happen.

Host: You know, just talk about how many different states Sanford Health, as part of this tour, has been in. I mean, we’ve been across the nation?

Odenbrett: Yeah, California, Texas, Florida, New York. They’ve been everywhere. I can’t even name all of them. It’s been really exciting. It’s fun to see the trucks in those different locations. It’s fun to experience some of the stories that the staff has. There have been a lot of challenges as well. It’s not easy to ensure that you’ve got the proper authority to do testing as well as licensure for our techs, make sure that we can do business in those states. So there’s a huge team of individuals in the background that are making it happen, but it is pretty neat to see that we’ve touched so many individuals in so many different locations.

Host: And we’ll touch on those people behind the scenes and the lab techs here in just a few moments. But what’s the feedback been, as far as going across the nation, being in many states, both coasts, the Midwest, what’s that feedback been like?

Odenbrett: Yeah. So it’s kind of neat. The techs, instead of keeping a diary, they keep kind of a picture board in each of the trucks. And so they take pictures along the way and they hang them up and it’s kind of fun to see when they come back here to Sioux Falls, all the different locations that they’ve been, it’s a little bit unfortunate that a lot of the States are somewhat shut down still because of COVID and they’re limited in what they can do when they’re there, but they do get to experience a little bit of the scenery and the local flair. So that’s been fun for them too.

Host: So, when they get back, they could take over a Johnny Cash rendition of “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Right? Exactly. Yeah. Switching gears here. Talk to me about the evolution in turnaround time to get results from the COVID tests?

Odenbrett: It’s interesting because initially, when COVID came here to the United States and the CDC started doing testing, it would take literally seven to 10 days to get a result back because no matter where you were at in the country, you had to send that testing into the CDC. Eventually each state got testing capabilities and that still took a while as volumes increased and there wasn’t enough testing capabilities. And then some of our local hospitals were able to start testing. But even that was a long turnaround time. It takes eight to 10 hours just to run a test on some of those testing platforms. With the equipment that we’re using in the trucks, our turnaround time is less than an hour once we start performing the test. So it really has evolved a lot. There’s a lot of new testing methods out on the market, and it’s really fun to see the evolution.

Host: Coordinating the mobile units across the country to multiple tournaments has got to be a task in of itself. Talk to me about that.

Odenbrett: It is a huge task and we’ve got a number of individuals here at Sanford behind the scenes that are working on that from our legal team and our compliance and regulatory team to the team that does the billing and all of the staffing and coordinating the truck movement. And it’s really fun to see it all come together, but literally multiple groups of individuals in the background, just in the lab itself, we’ve got about five individuals that work specifically on just the coordination of travel to get the techs to the trucks. The techs are doing a two week on one week off travel schedule. And so they have to fly in and out depending on where the truck is located, coordinating the hotel stays. And there’s just a lot of effort then ensuring that we’ve got the proper licensure, the proper certifications to do the testing. Every State has different requirements. So our regulatory and legal teams are overseeing all of those aspects. And it’s just a lot of coordination.

Host: So, the technicians on these labs have made huge sacrifices. Outline some of those.

Odenbrett: Yeah, it’s been a lot of time away from home for these individuals. Some of them are, you know, newly graduated and so it’s fun and exciting for them, but others have families and to spend those two weeks away and we’re working through holidays, we’ve got tournaments that we’re staffing over the Labor Day weekend, that’s coming up. And so there are just a lot of sacrifices that they do have to make.

Host: And outline again, what their schedule is. You said two weeks on, one week off, and it’s not just two weeks, Monday through Friday, I’m guessing it’s two straight weeks. Every single day.

Odenbrett: It is, with a little bit of travel in between because they have to go from one tournament to the next. Typically the testing week looks like this. We come in and set up shop on a Saturday. We start testing on a Sunday and we do the majority of our testing through Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning. And then we’re on call the rest of the time in case of one of the players or caddies or individuals within the PGA staff shows symptoms. And so then we can be there to do testing for that. So the majority of our testing takes place really from Sunday to Wednesday with on-call after that, then we pack up and move to the next location.

Host: So, given the feedback, the sheer number of states we’ve been in and areas that we’ve been in, how big of a deal is that for Sanford Health?

Odenbrett: You know, it’s great for Sanford Health to get our name out there on really a national level. The recognition has been excellent. The PGA has been extremely satisfied with the work that we’re doing and very happy that we’re there to provide this for them. When we look at the opportunity to help get a little bit of state of normalcy for the people of the United States, we’re excited to be a part of that. And the PGA was one of the first professional athletic organizations to be back in action. And so that was really fun to be able to be a part of that.

Host: That was my next question. Everyone is looking to get back to some sense of normalcy. Just how unique is it that Sanford has had a huge part of that through this testing partnership?

Odenbrett: It’s really unique because what we hear in other sports groups, such as the NBA or the NFL, they’re working with large laboratories; they’re not working with health care systems to deliver this kind of service. And so for Sanford Health to be a partner of an athletic group, like the PGA Tour, it’s just such an honor and a privilege.

Host: What does that say about Sanford Health?

Odenbrett: It says a ton about Sanford Health, our reputation, and our ability to deliver. It’s really exciting and fulfilling for me as a leader to be a part of something like that.

Host: So those two words, Sanford Health have been brought up on, as you said, its multiple national media platforms, Just how proud are you when you hear our organization on that large of a scale?

Odenbrett: You know, I’m proud of my team and the efforts that they’ve made. It’s extremely satisfying to see the success of this, but I know that it’s all because of the efforts that are happening behind the scenes, the hundreds of individuals that have played a role to make this successful. I’m just extremely proud of those efforts.

Host: Rochelle, thanks so much for joining us.

Odenbrett: Thank you.

Host: Before we wrap up, a reminder that Sanford Health Innovations podcast is now available on your favorite podcast apps like Apple and Spotify, as well as our website, Sanford Health News. If you enjoyed this conversation, follow us, give us a thumbs up and share your comments. We love hearing from you and hope you will find these conversations insightful. Thanks for listening. I’m Simon Floss with Sanford Health News.

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Posted In Community, Company News, Coronavirus, Golf, Innovations, Sanford International

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