Are drive-thru ERs the future?

Finding a way to decompress crowded emergency departments is imperative.

Over at Stanford Hospital, doctors there have come up with one novel tool: the so-called “drive-thru ER.” Patients literally don’t have to get out of their cars to receive medical care.

This is especially relevant in the current era of pandemic flu, since patients can use their own cars to reduce the risk of contaminating others.

So, how does it work? Here’s a description of the concept in action:

The volunteer patients made their way through the drive-thru triage as though they were being seen at the emergency room. As cars entered the parking garage, patients registered and were given paperwork. They then drove through one of two lines and stopped at the first station, triage, where nurses and emergency department technicians checked for vital signs — temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration — and gathered the patients’ medical backgrounds. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff wore gowns and gloves throughout the exercise.

From there, patients drove another 10 to 15 feet for a medical screening exam, where doctors reviewed the symptoms and made a diagnosis. Finally, they were discharged or admitted to the hospital.

Pretty cool.

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  • Jeff Brandt

    In the near future you will have OR that look like a self-checkout at home depot with 4 OP table/stations virtual surgeons and one surgeon monitoring in case of a problem. Virtual surgery is here today. The surgeons can be anywhere in the world.

    Jeff Brandt, motionPHR for the iPhone

  • Marya

    Probably not a bad idea, given how ill-prepared we are for this flu season’s potential impact. (see not sure how many institutions have the means to operationalize in the short term.

  • Cole

    Good idea for a pandemic…for those patients wealthy enough to own a car. My patient-population uses public transit almost exclusively, making this process worthless for them.

  • family practitioner

    dumb idea.
    more convenience=more unnecessary utilization=increased costs=healthcares bankrupting of America. The solution is strong, supported primary care.

  • RuthNH

    This is assuming a patient is well enough to drive. And what about the gas used up waiting in a drive thru?
    I don’t like the idea. A better option would be to briefly check out people as they come in, and put those contagious in a seperate waiting room.

  • anna

    Did the docs & nurses change gowns & gloves between each patient?

  • Okulus

    Maybe an entire ICU on a big, slow-moving turntable that every now and then rolls by a picture window. Then interested visitors, or even curious strangers could drive up, just like at the bank and toot and wave. How convenient.

  • ninguem

    Looking at space for my office, one time I looked at a bank branch that had closed. They moved to a different location. But the whole bank branch was there, including the safe and the drive-through window.

    Didn’t work out, but I was oh so tempted. I coulda had a doctor’s office with a drive-through window.

  • Pithy

    That’s a pity. You could have named your bank “The Bank of Buprenorphine”, headquartered on Suboxone Boulevard in River City, USA, a for-profit subsidiary of The Brotherhood of Tender Mercies … and you could have run a promotion advertising, “Help fight the rampant pandemic of individual free will – step right up for your free Naloxone Challenge today!”

  • Chelsea

    It will increase heart attacks and respiratory problems.

  • Melben

    It is a great idea for a pandemic…but Chelsea is right, it might increase heart attacks and respiratory issues..

  • Lor RN

    Sounds like fast food health care to me.
    I would rather take some time and get
    checked out properly, to better cure
    what ails me.

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