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Published on March 15, 2021

Going beyond brick and mortar, Cone Health’s new mobile medicine fleet delivers health care inside the community.

Doctors and employees in impromptu meeting

Excellent care... in the driver’s seat

For thousands of community members across Guilford, Alamance, Randolph and Rockingham counties, going to the doctor is much more complicated than scheduling an appointment and showing up. Many of our neighbors are at the poverty level, which presents financial challenges. Transportation is a persistent issue as well.

But with strategic planning, a commitment to community health and philanthropic support from The Leon Levine Foundation and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina, doctors can make their rounds in surrounding neighborhoods — and a mobile medicine fleet takes them there.

Picture a 42-foot motor coach and a companion sprinter van with all of the medical bells and whistles that a provider and patient could need. Two exam rooms.  ADA-compliant wheelchair access — the rear door opens up and a wheelchair lift takes the patient directly into the exam room. Ergonomic exam tables that take a patient’s weight, vitals, pulse and blood pressure, and then automatically loads data on the Epic medical record system. A private room for HIPAA-compliant consultations with patients. A point-of-care testing lab area. Contraceptive care is also offered in the motorcoach.

The bus, which will run Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., launched on Feb. 10, making its first stop at the Salvation Army on Eugene Street, where residents of the United Way Family Success Center could conveniently receive excellent care.

Chanel McKethan is the director of Community Care Clinics. In this role, she leads the Community Health and Wellness Center, Primary Care at Elmsley Square, Renaissance Family Medicine, Patient Care Center and the new Mobile Health Program. “In designing the mobile fleet,  I put myself in the shoes of the patient and tried to envision how I would feel if I were the patient and needed to access care on a mobile unit. So, ensuring the patient environment had a warm and welcoming feeling became one of the most important aspects of the project. The team wanted all patients to feel as if they were walking into a brick and mortar practice,” she says.

There are four slide outs that expand when the motorcoach docks. For McKethan, a number of features were paramount. A wall with a locking door between the driver’s seat and front exam room — as well as blinds that can be drawn at the front of the bus — ensures a high level of privacy. Exam rooms are set up with computers mounted on ergotrons that allow providers to easily move around the unit without having to carry laptops or turn their backs on patients. Three Intellipure air purification units provide protection from harmful airborne particles like gases, molds, harmful viruses, fungi and bacteria. Multiple large-screen TVs run health education messages.

Also included: a lobby area as well as a registration area, where patients can establish care with a provider prior to leaving the unit, and a staff canteen with a microwave and a refrigerator.

“We want to ensure there is access to care for all people,” McKethan says. “The mobile medicine unit will assist with removing barriers to health care.” 

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina partnered with Cone Health on the mobile health program and provided a $75,000 grant for the fleet.

“Barriers to care, including transportation, can make wellness and preventative health visits difficult, and UnitedHealthcare is committed to expanding access to care for underserved individuals and communities,” says Anita Bachmann, CEO. “We are proud to partner with Cone Health Community Health to help make accessible care and well-being easier for North Carolinians.”

Dr. Olugbemiga Jegede currently serves as CHMG Area Medical Director and as medical director of Cone Health Sickle Cell Program. He is the Medical Director for Cone Health’s Community Care Services, which comprise Community Health and Wellness Center, Transitional Care Clinic, Patient Care Center, Renaissance Family Medicine Center and Primary Care at Elmsley Square. Also, with a focus on patient safety and quality of care, he directs the division’s future expansion efforts into other health care services for the underserved across Cone Health — mobile medicine is a prime example. “I am proud to work with a team of dedicated providers and staff members to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and keep our patients healthy,” Jegede says. “Serving the patients of our community is not limited to the clinic. It comes in many forms.”

Dr. Patrick Wright, medical director for Cone Health Mobile Medicine, partners with Jegede. He recently turned his focus to community health. Overseeing mobile medicine aligns perfectly with the impact he wants to make as a physician and as a passionate advocate for access to health care

“Cone Health lives and breathes the brand promise that we are ‘right here with you,’”he says. A mobile motor coach parked at your local church, school or shopping center couldn’t be a more fitting demonstration of that commitment.

The fleet will offer urgent care, wellness visits and diagnosing and/or managing chronic conditions. Patients who need follow-up will be set up with appointments at one of Cone Health’s brick-and-mortar community care clinics. Community members also can access critical screenings — glucose, hemoglobin, pregnancy, etc. — or complete school physicals.

With health education and awareness a key focus, the fleet will visit venues where Cone Health can reach a large number of community members with resources for pursuing good health and well-being.

“People can spontaneously receive health care when they see the bus,” Wright says. “They can walk right up.” And know that Cone Health is right there.

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