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Designing on the Front Lines:

COVID-19 Drive Thru Testing


Dell Medical School / Open Source

Project Length: 

1 month


Diana Gonzales, Natalie Campbell, Stacey Chang, Gwen Gage, Lauren Gardner, Rose Lewis, José Colluci


Design Institute for Health

My Role:

Service Designer

The Situation

In April 2020,  COVID-19 drive-thru testing facilities were established at Dell Medical School and at a local federally qualified health center, CommUnityCare Health Centers, both in coordination with the local public health department.

Early in the establishment of these testing sites, Dell Medical School asked our team to identify challenges and opportunities to improve the workflow design and enable scaling of these types of testing sites in the context of limited supplies.

Strategy & Focus

Use service design methods to map and identify collisions and tensions for people providing and receiving care as well as system weaknesses, and then redesign an improved and ready-to-scale workflow. Provide the suggestions and instructions as a free to the public resource for others looking to quickly set up drive thru testing sites.


Evaluating Current Drive-Thru Testing Operations

Our design teams conducted observational field research and interviews with the professionals operating the UT Health Austin/Dell Medical School and CommUnity Care Austin drive thru testing sites.

There were 4 main areas of the workflow: Screening, Testing, Background Operations, and General Workflow Efficiency. From these observations, we discovered the testing workflow could be simplified into six sequential steps:

Screening, Intake, Collection, Processing, Consultation, Education. 

Impact for Our Local Testing Sites

Several of the design recommendations were adopted by the UT Health Austin drive thru testing sites but early feedback from local partner CommUnityCare Health Centers’ testing site shows that implementing suggested protocols for screening people into separate service lanes for testing and educating has minimized what was initially a long waiting line into parallel tracks that address needs and increase throughput.

We will be monitoring and updating the impact of this work as the improvements are implemented and further iterated at these two initial sites and beyond.

For the Public Good

Our design team synthesized our system and process suggestions and created an open source guide to help other organizations and municipal entities more quickly set-up their own COVID-19 drive-thru testing operations.

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