Drive-through clinics could stem effects of bioattack

A study by physicians at Stanford Hospital & Clinics has concluded that, in the event of a pandemic or biological attack, patients' own cars can be effectively utilized as a drive-through emergency department.

The study, published Jan. 13 in the online Annals of Emergency Medicine, noted that the drive-through method could prevent the spread of infectious diseases from patient to patient and from patient to caregiver.

“The most important message is that a drive-through medical clinic is not only a feasible model, but may be a preferred type of alternative care center,” Eric A. Weiss, first author of the study and associate professor of emergency medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told “It can expedite and facilitate seeing large numbers of patients while mitigating the spread of infectious diseases by providing a social distancing mechanism.

“And it not only can be used during a pandemic, but also would be an excellent strategy for bioterrorism, or for other emerging infectious disease events."

A full-scale exercise was conducted by Weiss and three of his colleagues last September, with results showing that moderately ill patients could be both evaluated and treated in the drive-through scenario in an average of 26 minutes.

The exercises also revealed that the diagnoses and treatments given during the drive-through matched those of real-life patients who visited the Stanford emergency room.