Pandemic highlights importance of innovation, agility, collaboration for Quest Diagnostics

COVID-19 presented a powerful test in business innovation, agility and collaboration for Quest Diagnostics, as it deftly navigated rapidly evolving public health challenges as the pandemic unfolded in spring 2020.

Catherine T. Doherty, senior vice president and group executive of Clinical Franchise Solutions & Marketing, described how the Secaucus, New Jersey,-based company quickly developed protocols for laboratories, couriers, and phlebotomists, mobilizing lab networks to accelerate testing for COVID 19, while making sure 47,000 Quest Diagnostic employees remained safe.

Noting that Quest Diagnostics initially only had the capacity to do 3,000 tests, it can now process 300,000, said Doherty, who was the inaugural virtual guest speaker in the Feliciano School of Business 2021-2022 MBA Executive Speaker Series. The dramatic increase was made possible by expanded access to equipment and how Quest Diagnostics leveraged innovation, including specimen pooling. Along the way, supply chain interruptions posed significant challenges, requiring the company to remain agile as it responded to changing demands.

Doherty noted that Quest Diagnostics performed more than 50 million COVID 19 tests since March of 2020. 

“We delivered solutions at a rapid pace by working in collaboration with the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and other state and federal public health agencies to help manage and track the virus through COVID 19 testing,” said Doherty, who is a Montclair State University alumna. 

Recognizing that many people weren’t sure where to go for screening, Quest Diagnostics partnered with CVS & Walmart for drive-through, consumer-initiated COVID-19 testing. With many physician offices closed to in-person visits or reticent to allow symptomatic patients in their waiting room, Quest Diagnostics also partnered with HHS for pop-up testing solutions.

Doherty, who is responsible for the general diagnostic franchises at Quest Diagnostics, including infectious disease and immunology, said the company’s response goes beyond to responding to a public health crisis.

“We’re working towards inclusive and equitable healthcare, we’re providing COVID-19 testing for groups in need and those who serve them, we’re funding programs that address the root causes of health inequities and we’re giving back to the community,” she said.

In September 2020, Quest Diagnostics launched “Quest for Health Equity,” a $500 million initiative to address challenges to access to healthcare and testing in underserved populations.

“We’re actively working with the CDC and others to continue providing innovative solutions through public and private collaborations,” Doherty said. 

Noting that promoting a healthier world is a core part of Quest Diagnostics’ mission, Doherty said she’s always felt a strong sense of purpose in her work, “but I think this initiative has taken it to a whole new level.”