Drive Thru GPs

Yesterday I had the strangest experience with healthcare in a while, which is a challenge considering the oddities that occur when you have a chronic illness. After feeling unwell for a couple of days I contacted my GP who referred me to a badger clinic.

These are clinics that deal with urgent, but non-emergency patients. However, this particular badger clinic was a little out of the ordinary. As you might expect, my lovely Mum drove me to the clinic, we arrived and were directed to drive up through a cleared area towards a grey portacabin. This was the first sign of something unusual, however the use of portacabins in healthcare has become more prevalent over the last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

As we pulled up to the cabin we were stopped by a volunteer in a hi-vis vest who directed us to pull up next to the cabin, situated under a large and open marquee. Doing as asked, we parked up and were greeted by a healthcare assistant who proceeded to take my medical history (that took a while!), and then performed the usual observational tests regarding heart rate, temperature ect, all while i sat in my car with the window down.. The healthcare assistant then explained she would relay this information to the doctor who would arrive shortly to assess and diagnose me.

At this point, both Mum and I had a small attack of the giggles, this was like waiting at a McDonald's drive thru, except I certainly wouldn't be receiving a happy meal as I left! Within 10 minutes the doctor arrived, talking again through my medical history before examining me. He proceeded to diagnose tonsillitis and a chest infection, lovely. I certainly don't do anything by halves!

As he returned to the portacabin to prescribe some antibiotics, I realised i'd been triarged, examined and diagnosed within the space of 15 minutes. Usually, at a badger clinic this process can take up to three hours of waiting in one room, then being called to be triarged, then back to the waiting room until a doctor is ready to see you.

Returning less than five minutes later the doctor handed me the prescription and advised rest (I promise I will rest after writing this), and plenty of fluids. Driving away Mum and I couldn't take in the oddity that had just occurred. Alas, there was no happy meal at the end of the encounter, however the treatment and efficiency of the service was second to none!

Is this the future for healthcare? Drive thru test centres became commonplace over the last year as a means of managing the COVID-19 epidemic. However, it seems that the use of the drive thru format has proven both efficient and useful in terms of urgent care. Perhaps, in years to come, Accident and Emergency departments will develop in the same way, although im not sure how a doctor would diagnose complex trauma via the open window of a car.

There are several questions that came to mind after the fast-health experience, for example;

- How would a person without a car of their own use this service?

- What would happen for people who rely on taxi's and public transport?

- How would illnesses of a more sensitive nature be handled in such a system?

- What are the implications of the service for Doctor-Patient confidentiality?

Have you ever experienced something like this?

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