Patients in need of lab tests, vaccinations and blood pressure checks can get them from the HSHS Medical Group in Decatur or O'Fallon, Illinois, without getting out of their car.
Marta Dale-Wilder gets his blood pressure checked through the window of his car by medical assistant Makayla Smith-Valentine at HSHS Drive-Thru Care in Decatur, Illinois. The facility opened this spring.
The physicians group, part of the Hospital Sisters Health System, opened the HSHS Drive-Thru Care sites this spring. They are the first facilities of their kind for HSHS. The sites are cooled by large fans on warm days and have heaters for cold weather comfort.
To use the drive-thrus, patients need either an order from an HSHS Medical Group provider or an appointment made through HSHS's MyChart portal. The one-story buildings have two bays that can fit three cars each. Patients need only roll down their window for throat swabs, injections or blood draws.
The stand-alone facility in Decatur is in a residential area on the outskirts of Decatur and not on the campus of any other HSHS facility. The one in O'Fallon also is located in a residential area — in a converted carwash. Both facilities are open from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. weekdays.
Dr. James Bock, HSHS Medical Group chief physician executive, said the plan for the labs was inspired by the drive-thru and mobile clinics set up by hospitals and other care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer services without requiring patients to come into buildings and risk infection.
He said the initial plan was for the drive-thrus to just be a place to have lab tests done. When it became clear during the pandemic that most patients were not only receptive to but more comfortable getting some routine medical services outside traditional settings, the physicians group decided to include blood pressure checks and vaccinations.
"This is about meeting patients where they're at and trying to serve their needs," Bock said.
Even before the drive-thru in Decatur officially opened in April, HSHS put it to use for daylong vaccine clinics. Having the facility meant that staff didn't have to work on parking lots and under tents, Bock said, and it gave patients the convenience and safety of staying in their cars. The O'Fallon site opened in May.
The labs are staffed by nurses, medical assistants and a patient services representative, with a physician, physician's assistant or nurse practitioner supervising from off-site. Bock said the labs are attracting a range of patients, including older people with mobility issues and those with young children in their care.
The services available at the sites likely will grow, he said, as the physicians group answers the question, "What can we do here to expand access to people who either can't or won't access us in more traditional ways?"
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