Drive-through medicine is in high gear. Just in time for fluseason, residents of several urban areas can now get flu shotswithout leaving their cars. At St. Francis Hospital Cranberry,outside Pittsburgh, patients drive through several stations, fillingout forms at the first, getting their shot at the second, andrefreshments at the third. At the last station they're checkedby a physician for adverse reactions.
During the 15-minute process, which costs $5 per person, patientsdon't leave their cars, get off their motorcycles, dismount theirbikes, or unlace their skates. The hospital, which breaks evenon the program, takes care of billing for Medicare recipients."The program takes the bother out of getting a flu shot,"says Len Urbanski, M.D., medical director of the emergency departmentat St. Francis. "Flu shot clinics in offices are time-consuming,but the drive-through event is a quick, clever and fun way forpeople to get vaccinated."
The St. Francis flu shot program, which has been offered forthree years, inoculates about 900 people in five hours on a singleSaturday morning one weekend in October. Shots are given by hospitalnursing staff volunteers. "We haven't had one adverse reaction,"Urbanski says. "It's been very successful. It's been threeyears and almost 3,000 patients, and we've not had one complaint."
In most years in the United States, influenza-related complicationsare responsible for 10,000 to 40,000 deaths, 50,000 to 300,000hospitalizations and about $1 billion to $3 billion in directcosts for medical care. "We're talking about a major publichealth problem," says Richard Zimmerman, M.D., a Universityof Pittsburgh professor of clinical epidemiology and the AmericanAcademy of Family Physicians' liaison to the CDC's Advisory Committeeon Immunization Practices. "Influenza poses the greatestrisk to people of any age with chronic medical conditions."However, immunization in healthy adults under 50 reduces sickleave, doctor visits, and incidents of respiratory illness.
The response from the Pittsburgh community, as well as thesuccess of similar drive-through flu shot programs in Atlanta;Amarillo and Corpus Christi, Texas; Pasadena, Calif.; and Bloomington,Minn., and elsewhere, has been so enthusiastic that some speculatehospitals may initiate drive-through programs for other inoculations."Drive-through programs for other diseases are certainlya possibility, because the flu shot program is so widely accepted,"Urbanski says. "You probably wouldn't have the outpouringthat you have with the flu shot, but I don't see why you couldn'tdo it with other onetime inoculations, such as the pneumovaccines."
This article first appeared in the on November 1, 2000 in HHN Magazine online site.