Mobile Clinics Prevent ER Visits and Promote Equivalency of Care

By Tony Cowan

Regardless of a patient’s insurance provider or deductible, the most expensive way to begin a medical treatment is by starting it in the emergency room. Tragically, the number of people who are using emergency rooms as their primary care provider is growing as nearly half of all U.S. medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 

This is leading to complications, including crippling volumes in emergency rooms, extraordinarily high Medicare fines for readmittance, and challenges for independent practices protecting their parts in the community’s health care infrastructure. 

A critical step in decreasing the need for people to turn to emergency rooms is the use of mobile medical units, which can help hospitals and physician groups reduce costs and increase patient volume while still providing a superior level of service to the patient.

When diseases or medical issues are diagnosed in an emergency room, they have often already progressed to the point of causing severe symptoms. The hospital has few options but to admit the patient – these are the very kinds of situations that result in the highest rate of readmittance. At this point, the patient is in a health crisis. When you consider that Medicare fines are incurred every time the hospital fails to provide a “30-day guarantee”, the need for a better solution is obvious. Hospitals have the added benefit of linking mobile capability with nonprofit foundations, which gives the local community more options for treatment that do not require walking into an emergency room.

Now that health care has centralized around large hospital networks, rural small towns have lost independent practices, and healthcare deserts are a growing threat to our underserved populations throughout the U.S. According to the Sheps Center, 104 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Mobile clinics are effective in reaching these communities as they can generate their own power, water and revenue.

The specialist that a patient needs could be 100 miles away, making transportation to and from healthcare services a challenge. This may be one reason why so many delay seeking medical attention until the situation becomes an emergency. Today’s health care tends to start at the hospital, and patient care does not lead back to the practice.  

Mobile clinics that produce equivalency of care allow patients the ability to experience quality healthcare without having to travel far from home. These clinics can be built to meet the standards of an ADA-compliant, licensable, health care facility and can include custom features to meet the unique needs of practices. They are all capable of having water, communication, and power. They can be pulled with a pickup truck and are rugged enough to go off-road when disaster strikes. 

To prevent emergency room visits and promote equivalency of care, practices and hospitals need to give consideration to mobile units that can bridge the gap in rural populations lacking hospital access, provide preventative care to people across the nation and that can generate its own water and power in case disaster strikes.  

Tony Cowan is Director of Emergency Response Technologies at World Housing Solution. 

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