An analysis of mobile health clinics launched in the Detroit metro area during the pandemic reveals that it is a model that can provide screenings and health care and could be replicated in other communities.
Wayne Health mobile units are specially equipped vans with medical equipment and professionals. They started as testing sites for frontline workers at the start of COVID-19, as part of a partnership between Wayne State University and Ford Motor Co. Over time, they grew to what Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president for translational science and clinical research innovation at Wayne State and chief innovation officer for Wayne State University Physician Group, called a “health vision of portable and patient-centric population”.
“If they have comorbidities and need doctor appointments or health care,” said Levy, who runs the program, “can we make connections around that? food insecurity, can we help them get access to food, so that we can really provide the holistic approaches needed to keep that person healthy and avoid complications?”
Levy noted that they have a patient portal for people to register online, but appointments aren’t necessary and they don’t require insurance or ID — which can be a barrier to care. He added that bringing care to communities also reduces barriers related to time and the cost of transportation.
Beyond COVID testing and treatment, Levy said mobile health units perform blood screenings for high cholesterol, diabetes and kidney disease and provide prevention infrastructure — as well as blood pressure screenings. for hypertension. He said they were also expanding HIV testing and treatment and had started working with the state’s needle exchange program.
“Can we use these vehicles to reach vulnerable communities of intravenous drug users,” he said, “not just to distribute needles, but to test for HIV and hepatitis C and B, and provide medical links to care?
Levy pointed out that 40% to 50% of people who visit mobile health units come from areas where the social vulnerability index is extremely high. For other communities looking to replicate the program, he said it was important to build trust over time and that this could be done with the help of faith groups and community organizations.
“Communities know that when the Wayne Health vans come, they don’t come just once, they’re going to be there, maybe days in a row,” he said. “But we’ll be back again and again, providing those resources to community members.”
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