Korea has now become the target of global attention because of the nation’s aggressive and efficient handling of the new coronavirus crisis. One of the attention-grabbers is the drive-through (DT) screening system for COVID-19.
Responding to the worldwide interests in the DT screening facility, a group of local medical professionals published an article in the Journal of Korea Medical Science, explaining its overall concept, advantages, and limitations for would-be installers in the rest of the world.
Generally, a test-taker has to go through five steps at a DT center -- registration, examination, specimen collection, instructions, and exit.
|The graphic illustrates the process an examinee undergoes at a drive-through screening center for COVID-19.|
According to the experts, the DT center’s entire service takes about 10 minutes for one person without leaving the car. These centers have come to increase their testing capacity to more than 100 tests per day as well as develop the ability to prevent cross-infections between testees while they are waiting for the test.
Those who want to introduce the system had better place it in a large space to prevent close contacts between testees, according to the article. They can install it in a small area, too, however.
After entering the center, examinees answer the questionnaire on personal information, epidemiologic factors, and related symptoms. At the screening booth, testers measure the examinees’ temperature with a contactless thermometer. If the testee is strongly suspected at this stage, he or she is transferred to a designated hospital after specimen collection
The healthcare workers at the specimen collection booth use nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs to collect respiratory tract specimens.
At the instruction booth, the testees are taught on how to check the test results and conduct home quarantine until the results come out, and how to contact the healthcare authorities if their symptoms worsen.
The experts said that an open tent or a temporary building could be used for work booths. The open tents cost low and ventilate naturally, but the outdoor conditions, including weather, can be challenging for the healthcare workers. A temporary building type is more secure for the workers and equipment within the facility.
One of the advantages of the DT center is time saved from ventilation compared to that of the conventional COVID-19 screening method. The existing screening centers take around 30 minutes to achieve airborne-contaminant removal efficiency of higher than 99 percent or even longer if surface disinfection with sodium hypochlorite is performed.
However, the DT center does not require ventilation for screening because the testees remain in their vehicles during the entire test processes.
The DT center also has limitations such as specimen contamination through personal protective equipment, the weather condition, the immediate management of those who are medically unstable because these centers are often located far from city centers.
Also, only testees with a vehicle can receive the test, and some testees can take the test repeatedly at different DT centers, resulting in the waste of resources.
The researchers developed the DT model to provide a safer and more efficient screening system to test the suspected or symptomatic people. The DT center is based on the previous concepts of point of dispensing for pandemic influenza.
Sixty-eight among 577 screening centers in Korea have adopted the DT system as of March 12.
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