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It can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. With work, family, and social obligations, many people find it difficult to prioritize their health. Regular check-ups, tests, and other routine healthcare needs often get pushed back to a vague, later date.
Even for those with healthcare coverage, activities like getting to a clinic, meeting with a provider, and travel time can take up a significant portion of the day. For many, busy schedules don’t allow for regular medical visits. For others, cost, access, and lack of healthcare benefits may be an issue.
Whatever the reason, not seeing a provider for regular check-ups — or at the very least, when there is a real concern — can have serious health consequences. As the current healthcare system and its delivery continue to evolve, some solutions, like mobile health clinics (MHCs), can help to deliver healthcare that is accessible and convenient.
Mobile health clinics are essentially a doctor’s office inside a large van or RV, with all the supplies and implements necessary for the onboard medical staff to provide routine health exams, consultations, and treatment. They’re most often dispatched to community centers like schools, libraries, local businesses, and other organizations to provide care for targeted areas.
While not equipped to take on very serious treatments like surgeries, they’re a useful resource for basic healthcare when location and/or access can be an issue. There are currently about 2,000 mobile health clinics on the road in the US, facilitating about 6.5 million visits a year.
According to some studies, MHCs provide a significant impact to population health through key services like preventative health screenings, chronic disease management, and urgent care. Social determinants of health play a large part in the overall well-being of close populations, like those sharing a workplace, community, or even recreational groups.
MHCs can help to combat those effects by delivering healthcare directly to areas that need it most. In some cases, they may even be deployed to places devastated by natural disasters or other emergencies, when traditional medical facilities are inaccessible or overrun.
For a lot of people, mobile health clinics also provide a level of flexibility in care that fits their needs and lifestyle. They’re able to get consultation, diagnosis, and treatment for commonly occurring illnesses or infirmities at convenient locations.
Healthcare and healthcare reform have been hot topics in recent years. In the face of ongoing change (and the demand for alternatives to the current sick-care model), many organizations are incentivized to provide new healthcare structures and delivery methods. No matter what shape that reform may take, mobile health clinics serve a clear need and can benefit population health.
The model isn’t without its pitfalls, however, including fragmentation of care without consistent follow-up or tracking, funding and maintenance issues, and logistical challenges that are complicated by space limitations and staff availability in a mobile clinic.
To demonstrate the long-term value or mobile health clinics, more research is needed to establish cost-efficiency, successful outcomes, chronic condition management, and other metrics of effective care.
However, even when MHCs are a part of the picture, we need to shift the focus of healthcare from treating temporary sickness to promoting consistent health.
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