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The Peninsula

Drive-Thru Screening Center for COVID-19

Published April 16, 2020
Author: Sang Kim
Category: South Korea

By Ingyeong Park

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, medical staff are contributing creative ideas in overcoming the pandemic. Drive-thru, and walk-thru screening centers for COVID-19 are prime examples.

What is a Drive-Thru screening center for COVID-19

Drive-thru screening centers, which help patients by testing them for the COVID-19 by using their vehicles in the same manner as ordering food at a drive-thru, were initially implemented in South Korea. They reduce the amount of time needed to see a patient and are more efficient than conventional hospital visits since they can test more people. Drive-thru screening also has an advantage since there is a low risk of infection for health workers because they can keep distance from patients. The innovation drew attention from the media and many countries. Currently, it is being implemented in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Denmark, and Belgium, among others. In March 2020, it was also introduced in the medical science journal JKMS(Journal of Korean Medical Science).

The center was suggested by Jin-Yong Kim, who was a doctor for the first COVID-19 patient in South Korea. According to his interview, he came up with the idea of drive-thru testing centers while thinking about how to solve the problem of the need to completely sterilize a conventional testing center after a single examination. Ki-Tae Kwon of the Department of Internal Medicine at Kyungpook National University has tried this method and after his suggestion the local government in Goyang city introduced it.

(Picture: Drive-Through Screening Center for COVID-19: a Safe and Efficient Screening System against Massive Community Outbreak)

According to the medical paper “Drive-Through Screening Center for COVID-19: a Safe and Efficient Screening System Against the Massive Community Outbreak”, the steps at the Drive-thru centers include registration, examination, specimen collection, and instructions. At the entrance, those being tested answer questions about their personal information and symptoms. Then the body temperature is taken and the physician asks additional questions based on the questionnaire. Cell phones are used to prevent the examination from creating direct contact between the inspectors and the patients. The driver slightly lowers the window in the car to allow the specimen to be collected. At the instruction booth, the testees are informed 1) how to recieve the test results, 2) that  they should home quarantine until receiving the test results, 3) and the procedure for notifying healthcare authorities if their symptoms deteriorate.

Each test takes about 10 minutes, which is a third shorter than the conventional screening process. The drive-thru screening centers can manage around 100 tests per day with only four to eight healthcare professionals.

The COVID-19  test costs around 160,000 won ($131.13) and the government will pay for the test if the diagnosis is confirmed.

Limitations of Drive-Thru Screening Centers for COVID-19

According to the medical paper, there are 5 limitations:

  • “A possibility of specimen contamination by the HCWs’(healthcare workers) personal protective equipment(PPE) would be a concern because HCWs do not change conventional PPEs for every testee. And to avoid such possibility, HCWs have to wear an additional disposable apron gown and polyethylene gloves in addition to the alcohol-based hand disinfection for every test.
  • In case of an outbreak during the winter season, protection of HCWs’ from the outdoor atmosphere would be challenging.
  • Prompt subsequent management for the medically unstable testees may be limited if the Drive-thru screening center is located far from hospitals.
  • Only testees with their own cars can visit the Drive-thru screening center.
  • As the barrier is lower than the conventional screening centers, some people may visit different Drive-thru screening center.”

The limitations of a drive-through system can be overcome with a walk-thru screening center. This  method of entering a booth on foot and receiving inspection is more efficient. Sang-il Kim, the head of Yangji Hospital, knew that there are many people who can’t visit the hospital with their cars and came up with a way to create a public phone box-sized facility to be inspected. The government has installed walking booth in Incheon airport and are inspecting for the COVID-19.

Ingyeong Park is an intern at the Korea Economic Institute. Ingyeong is a student at Ajou University, pursuing a degree in Political Science and Diplomacy. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from New York National Guard’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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