The Future for Virus Testing is Mobile

Dr. Jillian Harrington
Dr. Jillian Harrington
June 2, 2022

When a global pandemic turned the world upside down and threatened the safety of our families and communities, traditional healthcare’s many inefficiencies were suddenly and painfully obvious. Perhaps the most obvious was how weak our ability to scale testing for a virus truly was.

Suddenly everyone we knew either needed a test or was waiting (for days) for results. Doctors' appointment schedules were getting decimated with COVID-19 test requests. Urgent Care Clinics were getting hammered with people who didn’t have symptoms but ‘might have been exposed and needed to go somewhere.’ We started hearing story after story of people quarantining for 72 hours away from family as they awaited test results - good luck if it was the weekend.  

Those were just the stories we heard in communities where people could actually get a test! Suddenly, the already dangerous disparities in access to healthcare suffered by underserved communities got exponentially worse.

Mobile testing for viruses becomes the solution.

In response to all this inefficiency, Nomi Health decided to show up in a way that shaped the response across the country. Using a combination of technology and mobility, Nomi’s way of testing for viruses eliminated brick and mortar bottlenecks, freed physicians to focus on critical patients, and shrunk the time between nasal swab and sigh of relief.

Nomi mobilized temporary pop-up testing sites patients could drive up to. They simply signed in via mobile device, rolled down the window or walked up, got the test and awaited digital results within 24 hours. For areas where there was no way to pop-up, or for patients without means to get there, Nomi mobilized care teams in vans and brought testing straight to the patient’s doorsteps.

It scaled and it worked. Especially in underserved areas that include less populated, lower income communities where everyday access to healthcare and testing is already scarce. Mobile testing helped us reach these populations more consistently, effectively and economically.

Patient being swabbed at Nomi Health Mobile Site

No, it’s not the silver bullet - for obvious reasons.

Outside of the pandemic, mobile testing holds promise for many types of endemic illness. That said, of course there are tests which cannot be performed from the comfort of your car.  While swabbing the nose or throat isn’t the most embarrassing thing you can do in public, collecting samples for illnesses such as a UTI or STI probably ranks high. Testing for illnesses that require undressing just isn’t going to work in the drive through.  

Other obvious factors are weather and demand. No one is rolling up in a hurricane or a snowstorm to get their nose swabbed. No one is standing up a temporary testing center so three or four people can drive by per week.

This is the future of endemic and pandemic testing.

Our pandemic response proved that re-thinking the traditional model makes sense. Making an appointment, traveling to a doctor’s office, exposing people in a waiting room, getting sent to a lab for sample collection, waiting days for the results, and then finally driving to the pharmacy for a prescription is as painful as it is pointless. The whole thing is archaic, expensive, and unsustainable given our shrinking healthcare professions. Patients need faster diagnosis to prevent hospitalization and healthcare workers absolutely must be protected from exposure as much as possible.

The future of pandemic response and testing for illness runs on two rails:

First, bring care to people, not the other way around. Where traditional healthcare often makes it too hard to access the care we need, we have to make it easy. Second, deliver an end-to-end system that can both scale and contain costs. From online patient registration to field operations to digital results delivery to customer service, our care ecosystem must scale to address the nation’s hotspots and surges while maintaining significantly lower costs to everyone.