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Clemson Expands Mobile Health Fleet to Reach Underserved Communities

Clemson University's James F. Sullivan Center is using a $100,000 grant to buy two SUVs and expand a mobile health program that has been providing care to rural South Carolinians for 28 years.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Clemson University’s health center is using a $100,000 to create a fleet of mobile health clinics aimed at improving access to care in underserved parts of South Carolina.

Clemson’s James F. Sullivan Center, a nurse-managed health center, plans to buy two mid-sized SUVs with the grant from the Pete and Sally Smith Foundation. The vehicles will be used for follow-up and specific healthcare services in support of the center’s larger mobile clinic, which has been deployed to underserved communities throughout the northern part of the state for 28 years.

“We’ve used the larger mobile clinic to make big pushes across the state that have improved healthcare outcomes for underserved populations,” Paula Watt, the center’s executive director, said in a news story produced by the university. “These new units will act as satellites to that main unit, providing targeted visits and more specific services to patients we encounter during those initial pushes.”

Healthcare providers throughout the country are using vehicles to, in essence, bring their show on the road and reach patient populations living in remote areas or facing barriers to care. These mobile health efforts include community paramedicine projects aimed at complex chronic care patients and those who use 911 for non-emergency care; public health programs serving certain populations like the homeless and LGTB communities; and mobile telestroke services designed to connect first responders with specialists as quickly as possible.

Watt said the two vehicles – called Compact Utilities for Basic Services (CUBS) - are part of the health center’s ongoing effort “to support more locations and remove barriers to care in rural communities, particularly those in Oconee County.” They’ll be equipped with connected care technology to enable staff to conduct wellness-based chronic disease prevention, follow-up care for breast and cervical cancer screenings, cardiovascular screening and education and general acute and chronic care.

“Every encounter is a patient who is receiving information or services they would otherwise go without,” said Watt, who noted the mobile health program has allowed Clemson to expand its clinical encounters over the past decade from 4,500 a year to about 13,000 a year.

“Plus, our students are getting real, hands-on experience with this population and understanding the difficulties these individuals face in obtaining health care in general,” she added.

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