As an extension of the MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care online platform (musc.care), patients who need specimen collection for possible respiratory illness or “COVID-19-like” symptom testing will now have access to a drive-through MUSC Health respiratory specimen collection site. This drive-through site is in the parking lot of the Citadel Mall campus, outside the MUSC Health West Ashley Medical Pavilion.
The MUSC Health West Ashley Medical Pavilion is not a specimen collection site for this purpose. Signage will direct patients with testing orders and scheduled appointments to the entrance of the secure site in the parking lot. Providers within the site, wearing the appropriate CDC-recommended personal protective equipment, will quickly collect specimens from only those patients who have screened into the system as “high risk” for respiratory illness, including possible exposure to COVID-19.
A major concern for health care providers remains exposing vulnerable or non-infected patients to those patients who do have the virus and arrive to seek care in clinics, waiting rooms, hospitals and other such areas. To date, most patients will experience mild to moderate illness while treating viral symptoms and recover within a week from the onset of symptoms. These patients can be triaged through the online platform, receive lab orders and scheduled appointments to report to the site and complete specimen collection without having to leave their vehicles and possibly exposing others to the virus.
On March 7, MUSC Health launched access to free respiratory illness screenings using its virtual urgent care telehealth platform. Currently, using a promo code (COVID19), patients can engage in a free online health care screening. There are no age restrictions on who can be screened, meaning both adult and pediatric patients can be screened through the online platform.
Although online screening is free, it is important to note that specimen collection available at the drive-through site and subsequent laboratory processing will be billed to patients’ insurance providers or considered self-pay. As always, patients can access the MUSC Health financial assistance team if they encounter difficulties or barriers to payment. Patients will receive information about collection and testing procedures when they schedule their appointment, prior to their arrival at the collection site.
The combined effort to provide direct, timely, online access to screening plus drive-through specimen collection for patients with possible COVID-19 exposure, identified through the MUSC virtual urgent care platform, is unique nationwide. For example, while other health systems are offering drive-through specimen collection, “tent-style” walk-up sites or telehealth to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, this is the first known combination of telehealth screening and drive-through specimen collection to address and mitigate the potential exposure to and spread of the virus.
“This is a very innovative use of technology to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and I am incredibly proud of our MUSC Health care team for working so hard and quickly to make this option available,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health CEO and vice president for Health Affairs, University. “We are considering additional locations throughout the Tri-county area and our statewide system, should they be needed. Our state and local partners are in the loop on what we’re doing and seem appreciative of our leadership with this model. We want to do everything we can to think out of the box in terms of how we can help the community during this time.”
It is important to note: This is not a self-select drive-through or walk-up service for anyone in the community who has a health concern; individuals who report to the site for specimen collection, but do not have a testing order and scheduled appointment through the MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care platform, will not be allowed to enter the secure site.
“We must find ways to protect the vulnerable populations within the community, as well as the health care workforce so they can continue to care for all patients who need us, COVID-19 or otherwise,” Cawley said. “I really appreciate the Citadel Mall ownership and staff, particularly Richard and Ginger Davis, for being excellent community health partners and working with us as we address this evolving public health situation.”