by Dr. Richard Lam, Forward Los Angeles Physician

As a primary care physician, it’s important to get a full understanding of my members’ lifestyle to better support their journey toward wellness. One important aspect in gaining this understanding is their diet. I often ask members…

“What did you have for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday?”

One phrase I dread coming out of my members’ mouth is…the drive-thru.

Picking up food from the drive-thru typically signals a more difficult path towards developing a healthy relationship with food. This can be due to various barriers including socio-economic, behavioral or simply lack of knowledge. But over the past few months, I’ve grown to appreciate the phrase: drive-thru. What changed? The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the lives of billions of people around the world. Like wildfire, this virus spread across the globe, engulfing countries and communities in fear. Individuals were left feeling defenseless. Social distancing was adopted just to buy time to figure out a game plan.

Testing is crucial to understand more about the virus and is the best weapon of defense until viable large scale treatments and vaccines are developed. Our goal is to provide testing that best protects our members and staff at scale, and it’s clear that the most efficient way to do that is with drive-thru testing. One of the first countries to pilot this form of testing was South Korea. Given their success to safely scale testing, Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom all followed suit and opened drive-thru testing centers.

Here at Forward, we adopted drive-thru testing in March at locations across the country, and I have personally been manning the drive-thru for our Los Angeles members. It has been a pleasure caring for our members who come from far and wide. As a physician, I love getting a better sense of my members’ home environment, and I get a sense of that especially in drive-thru testing. I’ve gotten the privilege to meet my members’ life partners, furry friends and children all through the car window.

On a healthcare systems level, the drive-thru is efficient and economical. Drive-thru testing minimizes the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that has seen incredible shortages throughout the pandemic. It also allows for organizations to scale testing within a physician-supervised environment to ensure accurate specimen collection.

Although this is a global crisis, it turns out that the all-American drive-thru is one of our best defenses against an invisible threat. While viable vaccines are being developed, it looks like the drive-thru is here to stay.

Dr. Richard Lam is a physician at Forward, a primary care practice combining top-rated doctors and advanced medical technology. In addition to comprehensive preventive and primary care, Forward provides COVID-19 remote risk assessments, testing and ongoing care.