UAMS Research Looks at Arkansans’ Preferred COVID-19 Testing Sites, Reasons for Not Getting Tested

By David Wise

“Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas, it is crucial that we remove as many barriers as possible to testing and vaccines,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and principal investigator on both research projects. “These studies provide valuable insight into how we can make tests and vaccines more accessible to everyone.”

In one study, “Arkansans’ Preferred COVID-19 Testing Locations,” published in the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health, researchers compared preferences for testing sites based on age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, and insurance status. While differences were observed across all categories, most participants preferred drive-thru clinics for COVID-19 testing (55%). The second and third most preferred testing locations were clinics without drive-thru options and drive-thru locations in neighborhoods.

The researchers also discovered that the most striking differences were across race and ethnicity. Hispanics listed community-based organizations as a preferred testing location almost as often as drive-thru clinics and clinics in general. African Americans, on the other hand, preferred testing locations at church and faith-based organizations more often than all other racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers noted that previous studies have found that access to testing has not been equitable across sociodemographic indicators and that rural areas, lower income areas and areas with more minority residents have lower testing rates. In addition, racial and ethnic disparities have been observed in the rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths across the U.S., with African American and Hispanic community members less likely to receive testing but more likely to test positive for COVID-19 when they do receive a test. These racial and ethnic disparities have also been observed in Arkansas, where minority communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“This study reveals that race and ethnicity are important to consider when deciding where to offer COVID-19 testing,” McElfish continued. “Therefore, it is critical to take into account the preferences of our most vulnerable communities when developing targeted responses aimed at eliminating disparities in COVID-19 in Arkansas.”

A better understanding of testing site preferences could improve testing and reduce delays in receiving a diagnosis, the researchers concluded.

Joining McElfish on this research were Don Willis, Ph.D.; Keneshia Bryant-Moore, Ph.D., APRN; Martha Rojo, Ph.D., RN; Jennifer Anderson, Ph.D.; Kyle Kaminicki; and Laura James, M.D., director, Translational Research Institute and associate vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research.

The second study, “Perceived Barriers to COVID-19 Testing,” published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that individuals might not obtain a COVID-19 test due to a variety of barriers, including:

  • Confusion and uncertainty regarding testing guidelines and where to go for testing.
  • Lack of accessible testing locations, especially in rural communities and communities with lower socioeconomic status.
  • Perceptions that the nasopharyngeal swab method is too painful, echoing what has been reported by the media.
  • Long wait times for testing results, with many participants stating that they had to wait two weeks for results, which made testing seem futile.

“For public health leaders and health care providers who seek to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and improve testing efforts,” McElfish said, “this work provides important insights that can help with understanding and mitigating barriers to COVID-19 testing.”

This project was supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute, which is funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

McElfish was joined by Rachel Purvis, Ph.D., James, Willis and Andersen on this project.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — COPD, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and four dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

The UAMS Northwest Regional Campus includes 290 medical, pharmacy, nursing and health professions students, 64 medical and pharmacy residents, two sports medicine fellows, and 1,000 community-based faculty. The campus has nine clinics including a student-led clinic and physical, occupational and speech therapy. Faculty conduct research to reduce health disparities. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.