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UW Medicine continues to evaluate and evolve COVID-19 testing capabilities to meet the growing needs of UW Medicine patients.

A fifth UW Medicine drive-up site opened at the UW Neighborhood Issaquah Clinic on April 1. This additional site will provide COVID-19 testing for UW Medicine patients who have an order for the coronavirus test from their provider. The other testing sites are as follows: Two UW Medicine drive-up testing sites are located at University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest, one at Valley Medical Center and one at Harborview Medical Center. UW Medicine continues to assess options for setting up additional sites, especially for vulnerable patient populations.

“These drive-up testing sites are important on many levels,” said Debra Gussin, Executive Director of UW Neighborhood Clinics. “First, they keep patients who are potentially infected out of our hospitals and clinics where they might expose others to the virus. Second, this is a very convenient way for those suspected of having the virus to be tested quickly and easily, without leaving their cars.”

The drive-up testing clinics also help conserve valuable personal protective equipment (PPE) by eliminating the need for providers to continuously change masks and gowns. Patients are pre-scheduled and arrive at an appointed time.  A nasal swab is taken and patients are provided with a QR code to use to obtain their test results.  Results are typically available within 10 to 17 hours. About 80 percent of COVID-19 cases experience mild symptoms that can be treated at home.

UW Medicine has seen a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 related calls. To better help with patient symptom assessment, UW Medicine worked with Amazon to develop a virtual assistant to help streamline the process for UW Medicine patients seeking advice and guidance.

“There are a lot of concerned individuals in our community who are worried they have COVID-19,” said Carrie Priebe, Senior Director of Access and Innovation. “We needed to find a way to triage these patients quickly so we could provide those who don’t need testing peace of mind, and for those who do need testing the opportunity to do so as soon as possible.  The virtual assistant is available 24×7 and takes the patient through a series of questions regarding their symptoms and other known risk factors.  When finished, they are either given the needed reassurance or connected to UW Medicine for scheduling a COVID-19 test or a virtual appointment with one of our providers.”

UW Medicine’s goal is to use the virtual assistant and drive-up testing sites as a streamlined approach to evaluate and test for suspected COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it necessary to temporarily suspend operations at three Urgent Care Clinics at Issaquah, Ravenna and Shoreline until May 1, 2020. The Ballard and Federal Way Urgent Care Clinics will continue to see patients, seven days a week through telehealth, as well as in-person care when necessary.

UW Medicine continues to evolve its response to COVID-19 as leaders evaluate the best ways to screen patients and preserve PPE while keeping our patients and staff safe.