- A New York City-based federally qualified health center has converted a Winnebago van into a mobile health unit in an effort to improve access to care in underserved communities.
Ryan Health, formerly the William F. Ryan Community Health Network, unveiled the modified 33-foot-long van this week. The mobile health center joins the Manhattan-based FQHC’s network of six community health centers, seven school-based health centers and four community outreach clinics.
Ryan Health officials said the mHealth program aims to bring much-needed healthcare services to New York residents who can’t or won’t visit a provider.
“For many New Yorkers, access to healthcare is a challenge,” Brian McIndoe, the network’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “With the introduction of this new state-of-the-art mobile health center, Ryan Health continues to place patients at the center of their care, no matter where we may serve them.”
“The mobile health center will give New Yorkers easy access to the healthcare they need by meeting people where they are and making it a fixture of their communities,” he added.
Mobile health units, ranging from specially designed ambulances and EMS vehicles to campers, vans and even mobile homes, are popping up in communities across the country. Fitted with telehealth platforms and mHealth devices, they enable hospitals, health systems and public health programs to extend care into targeted communities.
Examples are numerous.
- Some health systems have deployed mobile stroke units, equipped with telestroke technology, to enable EMS providers to connect with stroke specialists immediately upon reaching someone experiencing a stroke.
- In a program commonly referred to as community paramedicine, hospitals are teaming up with ambulance services to send mobile health units to the homes of people with multiple chronic conditions, often identified as the most frequent users of 911. These visits offer preventive health and wellness services designed to catch any health concerns before they become serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.
- Health systems and public health programs are also using mobile health units to deliver primary and specialist care services to schools, senior living centers, minority communities and homeless shelters (or areas frequented by the homeless). More recently, they’ve been used to deliver telemental health and substance abuse counseling in an effort to combat the opioid abuse epidemic.
The Ryan Health mobile unit will be in service throughout the week and staffed by a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) nurse practitioner and driver/outreach worker. It will offer scheduled and walk-in care, and accept Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance, while offering sliding-scale fees for those without insurance.