As coronavirus cases continue to rise and testing supplies dwindle, Augusta University Health is partnering with state health officials to test a 3D printed nasal swab.
AU Health has partnered with the Georgia National Guard to test the new design at Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center and, if proven effective, it can be used by Georgia health officials as testing ramps up statewide.
“Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center has really tried to do the right thing, securing testing for their own patients and providing a way for other facilities to do the same,” AU Health CEO Katrina Keefer said. “This could provide a scalable way to test a lot more people, a lot faster.”
As states like Georgia look to expand testing, one of the major concerns is a shortage of nasopharyngeal swabs as two of the top makers of the product strain to keep up with demand.
“We are proud of our Georgia National Guard medical professionals for stepping up to fight this invisible enemy and grateful to partner with Augusta University Health System to help test their new 3D printed swabs. These swabs are critically short in the supply chain and thanks to the innovative efforts of Augusta University, we should be able to expand testing efforts statewide. This would not be possible without other partners like Windermere Nursing Home’s support to testing with these new instruments to keep their residents and staff safe,” Brig. Gen. Randall V. Simmons Jr. said.
The AU Health prototype, which has been engineered by faculty at Augusta University, includes a flexible stick with a bristled end. Oral surgery residents Drs. Kyle Frazier and Alexander Faigen, along with faculty members Drs. Jeffrey James and Mark Stevens, have been instrumental in using 3D printing technology to ease the shortage of swabs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is just one more way the state’s public academic medical center is helping to slow the spread of the virus,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD. “We’re grateful to the governor and state leaders for allowing Augusta University the opportunity to do what we do best.”
Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center has partnered with AU Health to provide screening, testing and telehealth services to the facility’s residents.
“This has really been a partnership,” said Matt Tolbert, District Vice President of Operations for Sava Senior Care Consulting, LLC. “We had conversations from the beginning about testing all of the patients. That decision presented many challenges but it was the right thing to do to protect the patients and staff. Very few of Georgia’s nursing homes have taken such aggressive action primarily because testing simply isn’t available on that scale. We’re now working with AU Health to be the center of a much larger effort that could support the state of Georgia and other nursing homes.”
The health system received accolades from Gov. Brian Kemp this week when he recognized the organization for its COVID screening app and announced its expansion statewide.