Demonstration of COVID-19 testing booth

Phone booth-like invention to increase COVID-19 testing capacity and save PPE

Device designed by CSE Shop staff in collaboration with M Health Fairview

A phone booth-like invention, designed by staff in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering machine shop, is helping M Health Fairview primary care providers to increase COVID-19 testing while conserving critical personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.

The device puts an easy-to-clean glass wall between patients and providers. Gloves extending from the booth allow a staff person inside to safely swab patients for COVID-19 without cycling through valuable N95 masks, face shields, isolation gowns or other PPE. The exterior of the booth is cleaned between each visit.

“It’s unreal how much PPE we’re saving,” said Dana Seeker, a medical assistant at M Health Fairview Clinic – Oxboro, where one of the booths has been deployed. “In the past, if I saw 90 patients in a day, that’d be 90 gowns and 180 gloves.”

The booth itself is more than just four walls, a ceiling, and a set of gloves. A mounted fan pushes air through a HEPA filter and into the enclosure, creating a positive-pressure environment that repels outside particulates. M Health Fairview leaders collaborated with the College of Science and Engineering—including mechanical engineering professor Chris Hogan, whose research team had been working on protective hoods (more info below) requiring similar raw materials and components—to ensure the booth design met the needs of frontline teams.

“It’s going to make testing so much easier going forward,” Seeker said.

“It’s safe for us medical assistants who are swabbing, it’s safe for the patients, and it’s saving so much with the equipment. I’m excited that we have this.”

M Health Fairview teams plan to deploy 12 booths at eight drive-up diagnostic testing sites across the system. Those sites are already conducting a significant number of daily COVID-19 tests, and that volume is expected to increase in the coming weeks. Over time, the booths could allow our system to conserve tens of thousands of gloves and isolation gowns.

PPE supplies—not testing materials—are currently the primary limitation on testing capacity. For this reason, the testing booth’s impact is substantial. Using the booth also cuts down on the amount of time needed to conduct a test. Two tests can be done in the booth for every one done otherwise.

Hogan's team also collaborated with M Health Fairview on respiratory procedure box to help prevent the potential transfer of SARS-CoV-2 to health care professionals. Read more about this project at CSE News. 

People who suspect they may have COVID-19 should visit, our 24/7 online clinic, for evaluation. If a patient meets the criteria for testing following an online clinical assessment, that person will be able to schedule an appointment at one of our drive-in testing centers.