Late last year, the department was criticized for taking too many days to test newborns for 28 diseases.
The department tests blood from all newborns. Hospitals take the blood, and the department transports it to a testing facility in Phoenix. That trip was taking too long, and the department zeroed in on reducing the time it took to get the samples to testing, said Celia Nabor, the department's project manager.
The department revamped its courier service, worked with hospitals to improve their internal sample management, and reduced what the department calls "transit time" for the samples, Nabor said.
It could be written off as a bureaucratic issue, but it has health implications, she said.
“With extensive long transit times that meant that we were diagnosing babies later, and potentially impacting them for the rest of their lives," she said.
The tests can lead to diagnosis, or further testing, she said, and the faster families know about their child's health, the faster they can make appropriate healthcare decisions.
"Now we can quickly communicate with families if there is a potential or suspicion that this baby might have congenital disorder," she said.
The March of Dimes is giving the state an award for improving the testing time so quickly, and for creating a model other states the states can replicate.
“It is looked at as one of the best models at this point," Nabor said.