Drive-thru health care: Springfield Clinic adapts to pandemic

By Holly Whisler

A drive-up may not sound like a health care delivery model, but Springfield Clinic will soon have two drive-up lab locations for the convenience of its patients. COVID has caused many people to rethink necessary activities, and businesses have responded with innovative ways to help us collectively adapt.

“Springfield Clinic set up drive-up lab services to help reduce the number of times patients would need to enter the buildings for routine lab visits,” said Tom Fitch, senior director of facilities. Since April, routine lab services have been offered in the parking lot of the main campus, 1227 S. Seventh St., with more than 30,000 patients and 150,000 lab orders.

“It became apparent that patients were very fond of the drive-up lab,” said Fitch. “Going into winter, we wanted to pivot and accommodate patients.”

Springfield Clinic identified two properties to provide permanent structures for the drive-up labs. The first location, 3040 Hamlin Parkway, is located behind West Wabash Springfield Clinic and opened Sept. 14.

Prior to COVID, Springfield Clinic had already purchased the former US Bank building at 700 S. Fifth St. and was in the process of rezoning it for medical use. According to Fitch, the existing drive-through lanes will be closed in with garage doors and walls. He estimates the second location will be ready by mid-October.

Fitch explained, “There are projects in various stages of planning, and we’re looking at how we can incorporate these drive-up labs as permanent in future projects. We’re always looking for ways to be flexible to meet patient needs. We know health care isn’t one-size-fits-all.”

Jennifer Boyer, vice president of operations, said, “This was another step that allowed us to keep patients safe and it became a significant patient satisfier.” She indicated it has been a positive for patients who have physical limitations to not have to navigate in and out of buildings for routine lab draws.

The concept of a drive-up lab is just one aspect of innovation that was born out of Springfield Clinic’s COVID Command Center. Boyer said, “Who knew COVID would pivot our lens of facilities of the future? Since the time we started our drive-up labs, our lab manager has spoken with other lab managers throughout the state and outside of Illinois, just based on our success.”

According to Boyer, the drive-up lab sites will offer routine blood draws, influenza tests, strep throat tests and flu shots without an appointment for patients who have a Springfield Clinic primary care physician. “The focus is on letting patients have the flexibility of staying in their car, getting a flu shot and driving on with their daily business,” said Boyer.

Holly Whisler is a freelance writer for Springfield Business Journal. 

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