TriCore’s Mobile Testing Program Ties to its Mission

Green Carlson
March 13, 2024

Monique Dodd, PharmD, PhC, MLS(ASCP)CM, TriCore’s Manager, Enterprise Clinical Solutions and Karissa Culbreath, PhD, D(ABMM) TriCore’s Chief Medical Director, Infectious Disease, were interviewed for this article.


The barriers to accessing healthcare is a major contributor to poor health outcomes and increased healthcare costs in the U.S. TriCore’s footprint across New Mexico has enabled improved patient access to draw site locations, particularly in its rural and metropolitan healthcare deserts. In an effort to bring a focused care opportunity closer to where patients live, TriCore is exploring mobile testing and its potential benefits for the communities we serve. For the last two years, TriCore was awarded grants to assess the scalability of mobile testing in terms of patient care and expanding into other areas of New Mexico. In the initial year, TriCore leveraged its laboratory data to identify hot spots and testing deserts in high-risk areas of Bernalillo County, where people have limited access to flu and COVID testing. The mobile testing unit deployed at these locations and provided testing services to the general public for both flu and COVID.


This year, Karissa Culbreath, PhD, D(ABMM), TriCore’s Chief Medical Director, Infectious Disease, received another grant. In addition to flu and COVID testing, we can now offer flu treatment. At the mobile testing unit, if someone tests positive for the flu, TriCore pharmacists can dispense Xofluza, a single-dose medication, at no cost if appropriate. For the next several weeks, the mobile testing unit will be at the San Ignacio Church Annex Building every Friday from 1pm – 4pm, and Rio Rancho’s Meadowlark Senior Center every Wednesday from 10am – 2pm.


“I find the mobile unit exciting because it is something out of TriCore’s normal daily operations. I’m happy to be a part of this project, which will open many doors on how we can help our communities better,” said Sonya Shipkowski, TriCore’s Supervisor, Ancillary Collections, LMG PIOs and Patient Care Centers.


TriCore Expands into Test to Treat

In 2023, the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy approved a test to treat protocol and expanded regulations for the pharmacist prescriptive authority to allow pharmacists to prescribe treatment for a positive test for influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) and Group A Streptococcus. Given TriCore’s testing expertise and the presence of our TriCore employed pharmacists, it was ideal to expand beyond testing and offer treatment for those results under this protocol. TriCore achieved this by applying for and receiving approval from the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy to be licensed as a Limited Drug Clinic (LDC). This license permits TriCore to operate in the public health space by combining the expertise of laboratorians and pharmacists to offer test and treat services through the healthcare delivery mechanism of a mobile testing unit. Since 2014, TriCore has employed pharmacists and now we are able to leverage their clinical expertise to offer additional services at TriCore.


“The goal of this mobile pilot project is to ensure historically underserved and under sourced communities have equitable access to testing and treatment,” said Dr. Culbreath. “For these communities, it is important we bring the lab to them so we can overcome previous barriers to access healthcare.”


New Mexico’s Geography

New Mexico is largely rural, with 26 of the 33 counties classified as rural areas. The people who live in these rural areas make up one-third of the state’s population. They are less likely to have health insurance, access to physicians or get needed healthcare. TriCore’s mission is to improve the health of our communities through excellence in laboratory science, education, and research. With our presence in most rural areas and collaborations with major hospitals, TriCore is uniquely positioned among laboratories to contribute to the improvement of health outcomes for the people of New Mexico.


Improving the Health of Our Communities

The current healthcare system is fragmented, and it can be difficult for a patient to know where they can go to get tested and get results quickly for flu or COVID. TriCore has performed over two million tests for influenza, COVID and other respiratory viruses since the beginning of the pandemic, and many were rapid, point-of-care tests. While providing results is an important step, ensuring patients receive appropriate treatment helps to dramatically improve their health, and stop transmission of the infection.

Imagine if TriCore could streamline this process and directly contribute to patient treatment?

The mobile testing program lays the groundwork on what might be possible. This year, the mobile testing unit can potentially reduce the number of healthcare visits for people who feel sick and seek testing for flu or COVID. If someone does test positive for flu, a TriCore pharmacist can dispense Xofluza, if appropriate, and share the results and treatment plan with the patient’s physician. The ability to test and treat through the mobile testing unit eliminates the need for patients to schedule additional visits to receive medication. Additionally, this single dose treatment has been shown to improve flu symptoms one to two days faster than no treatment, while shortening the time a person is shedding the virus (i.e., contagious).


In the future, TriCore may have the potential to test and treat other infections, such as COVID and Group A Streptococcus or expand to locations outside of the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho metro areas. With the ability to test and treat in one place, TriCore can alleviate the workload of physicians, urgent care centers and other healthcare providers. This approach could also enable the expansion of services to other areas, where there are physician shortages, and the general public may lack access to these type services.


“Right now, we’re gathering feedback to see what is possible,” said Monique Dodd, PharmD, PhC, MLS(ASCP)CM, TriCore’s Manager, Enterprise Clinical Solutions. “It’s important we get our feet wet and see how successful the mobile testing program can be.”


TriCore Pharmacist’s Vision

For Dr. Monique Dodd, the mobile testing program, and the possibilities for TriCore is a “dream come true:”

  • It’s the ability to build upon and combine TriCore’s lab services and its pharmacists to change the status quo in New Mexico.
  • The opportunity to directly engage with patients, go beyond testing, and enhance the well-being of New Mexicans.