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4-Step Process for Providing Drive-Thru Coronavirus Testing

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   April 17, 2020

When healthcare organizations administer drive-thru testing, they limit virus exposure inside their facilities.

A Philadelphia-based urgent care provider has a four-step process to offer patients drive-thru coronavirus testing.

Diagnostic testing has been a pain point in the country's struggle to manage coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Testing of individuals who suspect they have been infected with the coronavirus is crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19. Testing also is widely viewed as a key component of any strategy to reopen the country's economy.

In Philadelphia and three communities outside the city, vybe urgent care started offering drive-thru coronavirus testing in mid-March, President and CEO Peter Hotz says. The service is billed to all insurance carriers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial carriers, and most insurers have waived patient co-pays, he says.

"We wanted to make sure that our urgent care centers could continue to treat non-COVID-related patients. So, we wanted to make sure our centers were as safe as possible. By limiting the number of positive or suspected positive patients who are entering our centers, we can continue to see other patients," Hotz says.

There are four primary steps in vybe's drive-thru testing process, he says.

1. Telehealth triage

To start the process, patients go to vybe's website and register for a virtual visit. There are two teams of staff members who conduct the virtual visits.

"The first team does all the patient registration, check-in, and virtual triage—they get patient history and symptoms. Then a clinician—either a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner—joins the call and conducts a clinical evaluation with the patient. The clinician determines with the patient whether testing is warranted, and we figure out the closest center for testing. Then a note is sent to the center notifying the patient is coming in for a test," Hotz says.

If it is determined that the patient has a non-COVID-19 condition, medication can be prescribed during the virtual visit, he says.

2. Administering coronavirus test

The coronavirus testing is conducted in an urgent care center's parking lot, Hotz says. "When the patient arrives, they call the center, and a staff member goes out to the car in full protective gear. The patient stays in the car, identification is checked, then the test is conducted."

Medical assistants administer the bulk of the tests, he says.

3. Lab work

Depending on the patient's insurance carrier, test samples are sent to one of two diagnostic testing companies for processing—Quest or LabCorp, Hotz says. "Initially, lab results were taking anywhere from five to seven days to come back to the urgent care center. Now, it is taking two to three days."

4. Communicating test results and treatment plans to patients

For negative results, the patient is contacted via phone call by a medical assistant or another staff member. For positive results, a clinician makes the call, Hotz says.

"Our clinicians call back with positive results because patients tend to have more questions. The clinicians give specific guidance and follow-up instructions as if the patient had come in to see us physically. We send them information on COVID-19 and the things to watch out for—we make sure they are monitoring their ability to breath and their fever."

He says many coronavirus patients self-quarantine at home and do not require further care. Most patients whose symptoms progress are directed to go to the hospital, but some patients without underlying conditions have chest X-rays at an urgent care center to check for pneumonia, Hotz says.

"The overwhelming majority of patients are just staying home, self-monitoring, and self-treating, Fortunately, only a small percentage of patients are seeking care in a hospital. Those who are seeking that higher level of care are typically older, typically have underlying health conditions, and need to have a hospital level of care."

Photo credit: Lev Radin/

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Telehealth visits are an effective way to triage suspected coronavirus patients and see whether testing is warranted.

Drive-thru testing can be administered by a clinician or medical assistant in full personal protective equipment.

Clinicians are well-suited for communicating positive coronavirus test results to patients.

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