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Mobile COVID-19 Testing Units

Posted/Updated on 2/10/21 3:00 PM

As the healthcare industry continues to strategize for how best to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are pursuing ways to increase the availability of testing in their communities. One method that is rapidly growing in popularity is the deployment of mobile testing units. While these efforts may have a positive impact on regional tactics, mobile testing units are not without risk.

A primary liability risk issue associated with mobile testing units is inadvertently establishing a physician-patient relationship. The point at which the physician-patient relationship is established is not always clear and absolute. It depends on the specific facts of each situation and in some cases, the jurisdiction in which the testing is taking place. Once a relationship has been established, a physician has a duty to provide care until it is no longer necessary, or the relationship is terminated by one of the parties.

Any involvement with patients at a mobile testing site beyond delivering results most likely creates a physician-patient relationship. Consequently, non-patients should be treated as would any other new patient to the practice, unless the testing plan is limited to obtaining a specimen and simply delivering results. Such limitations should be clearly communicated to the test recipient.

Consider the following risk management recommendations:

  • Determine the limitations of the service you are considering providing. For example, will you only be notifying individuals of their results; or will you be providing a more comprehensive service that includes interpreting results, diagnosing COVID-19, and/or recommending treatment?

    • Results only to a non-patient: Clearly communicate what the encounter does and does not include.
      • Inform the patient that your encounter does not establish a physician-patient relationship, which provides notice to the patient of your expectations and understanding.
      • State clearly that the individual is responsible for following up with his or her primary care provider.
        • Refer individuals who do not have a primary care provider to the local medical society for assistance in finding a one.
      • Document this process (including the individual’s understanding/consent).
      • Provide the patient with a handout reiterating limitations of the relationship and patient responsibilities.

    • All other testing scenarios:
      • Have a mechanism in place to notify patients and their primary care provider about significant findings.

    • Collect sufficient clinical and demographic information to comply with the standard of care and test result reporting laws and regulations (see for example, COVID-19 Pandemic Response, Laboratory Data Reporting: CARES Act Section 18115 for data collection requirements).
      • Determine how you will retain these records, especially if the test subject is not an established patient.
    • If individuals are required to follow-up after testing, consider directing them to online information, but have hard copies available.
    • Put in place a follow-up system for reporting test results to individuals and laboratory data to state or local public health department.
    • Make sure that the testing plan complies with state laws.
    • Become familiar with CDC lab data reporting guidelines, as well as your state and local requirements.
    • Follow all CDC infection control recommendations


NORCAL Group Resources Documents

NORCAL Group Insureds can access information on the creation of a physician-patient relationship in NORCAL Group Risk Management Resource, “Establishing and Terminating the Physician-Patient Relationship,” and about test result follow up systems the “Follow Up” Risk Management Resource available through MyACCOUNT.

Topics: COVID-19

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The information provided on this site offers risk management recommendations and resource links. The information does not constitute a legal opinion, nor is it a substitute for legal advice. Legal inquiries about this topic should be directed to an attorney. NORCAL Group makes no representation regarding compliance with state or federal law by offering these resources. These documents and links are provided for your convenience and reference only, and the provision of these materials does not mean NORCAL Group is affiliated or associated with these organizations.