University Hospitals has designed a fully mobile, self-contained COVID-19 testing center that is visiting underserved areas across Northeast Ohio, according to a news release.
The mobile testing center, which the Cleveland-based health system says is the first in the state, aims to help address gaps in access to testing. Black and Hispanic communities see more COVID-19 cases and deaths and have less access to testing, according to the release, which notes that UH is currently evaluating communities to determine exact locations for mobile testing. The health system will work with community leaders to inform residents about upcoming visits.
"University Hospitals has a long history of addressing health care disparities for underserved populations," said Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, UH Edgar B. Jackson Chair of Clinical Excellence & Diversity, in a prepared statement. "We know transportation is a barrier to testing in these neighborhoods, so we've committed to bringing these valuable resources where they're needed."
In addition to deploying the mobile unit, the health system has also expanded COVID-19 testing to nearly all UH urgent care locations (UH Broadview Heights Urgent Care doesn't offer the testing). Patients experiencing respiratory symptoms (such as cough, fever, shortness of breath) can get evaluated and tested at the urgent care locations or the mobile unit, according to the release, which notes the system will not test patients who don't have symptoms.
Three employees will staff the mobile testing unit, which will have regimented cleaning and sanitation protocols between patients and is equipped with Plexiglas to separate the caregiver from the patient during testing, according to the release. One patient at a time will be allowed inside the unit.
At each location, staff in the mobile unit will conduct a limited number of tests, which will be processed at UH's core lab. The goal is to have results within 48 hours. For patients without access to a phone or internet, UH will hand-deliver positive test results, according to the release.
Patients seeking testing are encouraged to schedule their appointment online and will need to provide either a driver's license, state-issued ID or their name, address and Social Security number. Testing will be provided at no residual cost to patients, according to the release.
"There is a gap in the ability to test for COVID-19 in the most vulnerable areas," said Dr. Brian Rothstein, clinical ventures fellow, UH Ventures, and assistant professor of pediatric neurosurgery UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, in a provided statement. "With this mobile unit, we're not only closing that gap by delivering our testing services, but spreading important information about the virus and how to combat it."
UH will continue providing COVID-19 testing at four area Fever Clinics, which provide medical attention for those who develop COVID-19 symptoms.
This article orginally appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business.