While COVID is still prevalent across the United States and around the globe, the landscape of health is forever-changing. Not only are we combating the current variant of the virus, there’s also the flu and RSV to deal with. So, how can we keep ourselves safe in this brave new world? And how is the healthcare sector responding to this new demand?
Experts Josh Arant and Chad Price, of MAKO Medical Laboratories, a national diagnostics laboratory that was instrumental during the pandemic, have the answers. Having supported the country’s testing strategy over the last two years, the businessmen are well-versed in how to handle the upcoming challenges. As part of a recent podcast interview, Taking the Pulse, Josh Arant shared news of the latest surges and what we can expect from both MAKO Medical and the medical industry in the coming years.
Now that we are moving into 2023, there’s been an unexpected surge in both the flu and RSV. While this has been prevalent among children, the viruses can be seen among all areas of the community. Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, and his team have noticed this change.
“We’ve seen over the past several months flu positivity rates and RSV in kids has increased significantly,” explained Josh Arant. “COVID, the past two winters, has been the main story but now flu positivity rates continue to increase and RSV as well.”
It’s not simply about recognizing that there has been a shift. Now that the experts are aware of the surge, they have the job of figuring out what the cause is. The data speaks for itself, revealing that there has been a huge move toward these two viruses. Luckily, the MAKO Medical team is equipped to diagnose and test individuals displaying symptoms.
“So, we’re here to test and try to figure out and diagnose those things for the patients. We’re seeing that increase occur,” said Josh Arant. “It’s really tough to pin down why that is; if it’s just these strains are stronger than the current COVID strain. But we are seeing that data as everyone’s reading about it in the news.”
“It’s very cyclical,” explained Josh Arant, when talking about how to predict the trends. “So you look at the data from previous cycles and try to plan and prepare for an upcoming cycle. With COVID specifically, we’ve been in this Omicron sub-variant now for almost a year and we’ve seen the volumes increase significantly in the very beginning of 2022. Then it’s been a pretty steady decline over the course of 2022 and into 2023.”
Under the helm of Chad Price, MAKO Medical Laboratories was vital in the country’s COVID testing strategy. Since the start of the pandemic, the leading healthcare business has grown exponentially, expanding both its physical premises and its staff members. The knowledge that the team gained in this period has informed their ongoing research.
“Regarding flu, the fortunate thing about being a diagnostic laboratory is you get to see those results really quickly,” said Josh Arant. “As patients come in with flu-like symptoms and RSV-type symptoms and we test, we start to see the increases in the positivity rates firsthand. That allows us to prepare rather quickly. We’ve got great supply-chain partners who are able to keep us stocked with the necessary inventory and supplies to continue.”
Aside from the surge in new viruses, there’s yet another challenge that Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, is facing. In recent years, there have been great shortages in healthcare workers across the United States. Since the business relies on accredited professionals and their expertise, this has presented a real obstacle. Luckily, the team has a couple of solutions that have been working, the first one being how they operate the business.
“First and foremost, it starts with culture,” explained Josh Arant. “Do people really want to come and work for you and your team? We spend a lot of time focusing on our culture and ensuring that it’s a place where people want to work. It’s also a place where people get better — not just professionally but personally. I think that’s, for us, where it starts.”
Having attracted the right talent to the ranks, the next step is ensuring that the leaders nurture that. That is where education and progression pathways come into play. Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, and his team continually offer the staff members these opportunities. That in itself allows them to develop high-level skills and qualifications.
“Secondarily, how do you upskill folks while they are in your organization so that they can take that next step in their professional career?” said Josh Arant. “We’ve got several programs that we’ve been working on for a couple of years that are launching at the end of last year and early this year that allows folks who come and begin working at MAKO to gain new skills that make them more valuable further in their career.”
Creating a culture in which upskilling is encouraged has revitalized the company’s staff. Individuals with an interest in learning more and becoming more qualified have the opportunity to do so. One such area, in which there was a significant skills shortage, was that of phlebotomy. That is the practice of taking blood samples from patients so that the specimens can be examined by a healthcare testing laboratory, such as MAKO Medical.
“That was one of the first things we saw as a difficulty — just finding qualified phlebotomists across the country with all of our clients,” explained Josh Arant. “We said “hey, let’s start our own program”. So we went through the entire accreditation process with ASCP to become a formal phlebotomy program.”
While the process was long and laborious, the results were worthwhile. After jumping through all of the hoops, the team at MAKO Medical can now offer a full accreditation to team members who are ready to embark on a new part of their medical career.
“Now, MAKO University has an ASCP-accredited program for phlebotomists,” said Josh Arant. “It’s a nine-week course, where we can take an individual; they get 100 draws through that course and afterwards, they have the opportunity to become an accredited phlebotomist. It’s another way to have individuals upskill and also create more value for the organization. It is free for our team. It’s their choice. All we ask is that they commit and see it all the way through.”
Phlebotomy isn’t the only area in which the medical industry is lacking. Both Josh Arant and Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, noticed a low take-up of medical lab technician positions. Once they had exhausted the regular recruitment routes, the team decided to look at ways to upskill existing workers and offer other individuals the same opportunity.
“From a lab’s perspective, not only for commercial laboratories but for hospital laboratories, finding medical lab technicians and medical lab technologists has been very difficult,” said Josh Arant. “So, we are looking and building that plan right now to provide online programs where they can have an apprenticeship, an internship, at one of our laboratories across the country.”
The course would be available to MAKO Medical Laboratories workers and allow them to enhance their skill-set. Since there are many regulatory requirements in this line of work, gaining this type of knowledge and qualification makes a major difference to professionals.
“We would pay for that online program so that they can then get upskilled,” said Josh Arant. “Many labs have regulatory requirements, whether it’s through CLIA or CAP, where we have to have MLTs to MT or medical laboratory scientists with certain degrees in accrediting criteria in order to run our laboratory compliantly. We are building the programs to upskill our team but it’s also to maintain compliance with our accrediting organizations.”
As we have already mentioned, Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, is offering upskilling routes to employees. However, the changes in the company don’t start and end there. As Josh Arant explained, the business is looking to new pathways for the coming years.
“We have aggressively expanded our sales force and our core markets that we are currently in, not only before the pandemic but now in the pandemic,” he explained. “We created a sales training program last year that’s about a 16-week course. People come out and know everything about MAKO and labs and how to present our value proposition.”
MAKO Medical Laboratories may also be set to grow. Josh Arant says that the business leaders are now looking at opportunities to expand the company even more. By delving into new areas of the healthcare field, the company has the opportunity to change yet more lives. While no specifics have been released yet, the future may see the business acquiring other firms and branching out into new, interesting areas of the sector.
“We are strategically looking at acquisitions across the country and evaluating those in markets that we may not be in, but we may want to be in, that are growing markets,” said Josh Arant. “That is a part of our growth strategy out of COVID,” he confirmed.
And finally, Chad Price, MAKO Medical CEO, is always thinking outside of the box. As his business partner, Josh Arant, explained, the team is now looking at new ways to deliver testing and results. One idea is that of a brand, new delivery model — taking inspiration from the likes of UberEats. That’s where “MAKO to You” comes into play here.
“We’re looking at new delivery models that we’ve learned through the COVID pandemic on how patients want their lab services delivered,” said Josh Arant. “How can we be more patient-friendly? So, a program that we’re launching in Q1 is called “MAKO to You”. It’s a new patient delivery model. All of us got used to utilizing DoorDash or UberEats and it was all done on your app.”
Since customers are already comfortable using delivery apps for their takeout and grocery needs, the MAKO Medical team wants to follow suit. The new system will change the way that people order the health testing and get the results. Since many are frustrated with the slow pace of the testing industry, this revolutionary addition will enhance their experience.
“We are trying to take that concept and bring it to the lab space, where patients didn’t have to go to a patients’ service center or maybe it’s a smaller doctor’s office and they don’t have room to have an in-office phlebotomist or someone to collect those specimens,” said Josh Arant. “They could simply get on our application, choose a designated address, a designated time and our team would go to that location and perform the laboratory draw, and then bring those specimens back to our laboratory and report the results through the application.”
While the app will be the first port of call, Josh Arant says that there will be more advancements coming to patients soon.“That’s phase one,” he explained in the interview. “Phase two is to create a lab in a van-type concept where we can provide point-of-care testing on routine tests that would occur right there in someone’s parking lot or driveway. So, they get the results back in 30 minutes or less. They are not waiting 24 hours to get those results. We’re just trying to look at different ways to deliver results to patients.”
As we move toward a post-COVID world, healthcare businesses are catapulting forward. MAKO Medical Laboratories is one of the country’s leaders in this sector. Thanks to the countless innovations we’ve seen in recent years, the business is changing for the better. Whether it’s more accurate results, a faster delivery time, or even a new app, there are plenty of ways that Chad Price and his team are redefining the commercial testing space.
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