Mobile Health in Action

Setting: Washington, DC, Capitol Hill East. My morning run starts at the top of 17th Street, SE, just blocks from the United States Capitol. Instead of taking a scenic jog towards the United States Capitol, my jogging route follows the road less traveled and heads south, towards Benning Road, NE.

The landscape changes quickly in this neighborhood: manicured hedges are soon unkempt; lawns are soon littered with glass, take-out boxes, and other random debris. Picket fences soon become mangled steel, protecting gateless, grassless lawns. There is always an edge in the air that contrasts sharply against the crisp morning air.

One morning I arrived at Benning Road and 17th Street NE, surprised to see the George Washington University “Mammovan.” I decided to observe. The presence of the Mammovan added a different element to the community. I noticed three staff members, two wearing t-shirts. People were comfortable asking the staff questions, they were clearly familiar with the Mammovan’s presence. Within moments the Mammovan became an integrated member of the community.

I believe the mobile health model can only grow and may be the “next” thing to take off in healthcare. I think this, not only for its current applications in underserved medical communities and the increased federal funding for mobile health, but I believe the mobile health model can also be applied in communities with dense elderly populations and quite possibly even in rural communities.

Imagine a completely kitted mobile health unit visiting an adult only condominium community. I think many in the baby-boomer generation would much rather receive medical care at home or from a mobile unit instead of in a home for the elderly. It only helps that the mobile health unit is showing significant return-on-investment.

Just recently, researchers from Harvard Medical School developed a ROI model depicting for every $1 invested, the mobile health unit returns $36* . This stat was also referenced in a Newsweek article A Little Van with a Big Impact. Since Massachusetts enacted its healthcare reform in 2006, costs have increased by 52%. The mobile health van has been shown to help defray some of that cost while providing a quality, highly accessible healthcare service.

It only helps that Kaiser Permanente unveiled a completely wired mobile health van in Hawaii in 2009. This vehicle was projected to impact an estimated 12,000 Hawaiian residents. The vehicle also comes with Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record. Stay tuned, the mobile health unit just may be the cornerstone for the future of community health delivery.

*BMC Medicine, online publication, June 2, 2009, “Calculating the return on investment of mobile healthcare”Nancy E Oriol(1), Paul J Cote(2), Anthony P Vavasis(3), Jennifer Bennet(4), Darien DeLorenzo(5), Philip Blanc(6) and Isaac Kohane(7)

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