Memorial Healthcare System Deploys Mobile Health Centers to Provide Free Health Care in Underserved Areas
Memorial Healthcare System oﬀers compassionate medical care for residents who cannot aﬀord health insurance or are underinsured through South Broward Community Health Services (SBCHS). Although SBCHS oﬀers ﬁve locations for free and discounted care to south Broward residents who qualify, in many instances community members eligible for the services either didn’t know about the service or weren’t using it. Memorial Healthcare System’s goal was not to simply provide single-point medical care, but to ﬁnd patients with the greatest need and get them involved in a “medical home.”
To identify the greatest need, Memorial evaluated $130 million of uncompensated and charity care provided in 2005, to determine where people receiving the greatest amount of charity care lived. Although many of those patients were receiving free care from Memorial facilities throughout south Broward County, Memorial wanted to provide comprehensive, preventive care to help improve patients’ overall health and quality of life. The analysis helped Memorial identify the geographic areas with the greatest number of uninsured patients.
Memorial then deployed its Mobile Health Centers, taking medicine on the road to the areas with the greatest medical needs. Every month, adults’ and children’s medical vans make visits to targeted areas – to school health fairs, selected neighborhoods and other underserved areas of south Broward – providing free health care services and education. In 2012, the Children’s Mobile Health Centers recorded more than 2,700 patient encounters. The vans served 2,550 adult patients.
For children, the Mobile Heath Centers oﬀer immunizations, vision screenings, hearing screenings, dental and body mass index (BMI), as well as back- to-school physicals. Adults can visit the vans to obtain screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and HIV, referrals for mammograms, pap smears and primary care, vaccines for tetanus, ﬂu and pneumonia, and safe-sex education.
The vans also play a key role in Memorial’s Health Intervention with Targeted Services (HITS) program. In addition to attending to the immediate medical needs of residents in underserved Broward neighborhoods, HITS helps patients establish a “medical home” in SBCHS. The program encourages individuals with chronic health conditions to participate in disease management programs, and it provides enrollment assistance for governmental programs that serve large Broward populations, such as Medicaid, Medicare or Florida KidCare.
The Mobile Health Centers and HITS work together to identify patients and provide access to care that is consistent and addresses all of their physical and mental health needs. The Mobile Health Centers target the same geographic region twice a week for six months. Prior to arriving, the HITS team works with the community to heavily promote the Mobile Health Centers, including working with housing authorities, local community agencies, schools and going door-to door.
To maximize the impact of the Mobile Health Centers, Memorial began identifying uninsured emergency room and inpatient visitors with chronic conditions. One team is assigned to schedule appointments at the Mobile Health Centers, and another works in the community, meeting with individual patients who could beneﬁt from more coordinated care. Without going door-to-door, some patients would never be reached. In one instance, a gentleman was around 400 pounds and hadn’t left his house for over a year and a half. The doctor visited him in his house, and today he has lost a signiﬁcant amount of weight and is active in the community. The program’s ability to address patients’ unique needs is known for saving many lives.
Since its inception in late 2006, HITS has helped more than13, 400 residents in targeted areas of Broward County, with 2,416 new patients securing a medical home. The Mobile Heath Centers are just one tool that South Broward Community Health Services employs to reach out to needy populations and establish long-term, eﬀective relationships.
“The mobile van staﬀ also connected me with a primary care physician and helped me apply for Medicaid. They were a godsend for me at a most devastating time. If I had not met them, I don’t know where I would be now. The Mobile Health Centers have put some beautiful people in my life.
– Ruby, 55-year-old breast cancer patient who received a diagnostic mammography and biopsy