Have mobile clinic, will travel.
That’s the simple mission statement behind the University of Miami Pediatric Mobile Clinic, which for 21 years has provided the Dade County area with medical care – well visits, sports physicals, immunizations, management of chronic conditions, urgent care, mental health and social work – to uninsured children.
Dr. Lisa Gwynn, the assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and medical director of the Pediatric Mobile Clinic, told Saludify the program targets the uninsured and underinsured.
In the average year, the Pediatric Mobile Clinic provided primary medical care for nearly 3,000 children. Gwynn said this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“If we had another unit our numbers would double,” Gwynn said. “Basically, we can only respond to so many kids in a day. We’re kind of a safety net provider throughout the community, and pretty much every day we’re providing medical care in a different part of town.”
Pediatric mobile clinics respond to an urgent need
The pediatric mobile clinic responds to an urgent care need of those who, because of financial and cultural barriers, might not be able to access medical services otherwise.
The program relies on a multicultural, multilingual staff offering medical care — free of charge — in an effort to reduce health care disparities.
In fact, Miami-Dade County has the highest uninsured and underinsured rates in the state and 30 percent of children in this area are below the poverty level.
Areas of focus for Gwynn and her team include Homestead, Miami Beach and Little Haiti.
Gwynn and her peers provide a plethora of services that fall outside of pediatric medical care. These deal with smoking and obesity education, as well as case management and educational attainment issues. Furthermore, the Pediatric Mobile Clinic is also helping to train future healthcare providers by challenging them to serve disadvantaged children.
“Kids can’t advocate for themselves,” Gwynn said. “That’s kind of ingrained. Why we go into pediatrics is to advocate for kids and be there for them. There’s no better way to be there for them than to actually get out into the heart to reach communities to provide that care.”
Gwynn runs the mobile unit alone but she receives pediatric residents from the Jackson Memorial Residency Program and third-year medical students from University of Miami, which is also advancing medicine outreach into the underprivileged areas in many ways.
Funding for the Pediatric Mobile Clinic is a blended model from philanthropic donations, grant support and financial backing by Children’s Health Fund.
Telemedicine-enabled mobile clinics
An innovative partnership between the Children’s Health Fund and Verizon Foundation was announced this week. As a result, the mobile clinic operated by the University of Miami will now be telemedicine-enabled.
“Telemedicine is the practice of medicine at a distance using technology,” University of Miami’s TeleHealth Director Scott Simmons told Saludify. “In many cases, we use video conferencing technology so we can remotely conduct physical examinations and interview patients. It’s a very efficient way to provide specialty medical care to places where it’s difficult to get specialty care. We’ve got specialized equipment attached to a high definition video conferencing system that we can interactively examine patients.”
The Miami pediatric mobile medical clinic enables underserved local patients to consult with specialists from the University of Miami Health System, using UM’s advanced telemedicine program. The Verizon Foundation is providing the mobile clinic with a high-speed 4G LTE wireless broadband connection and upgraded telecommunications equipment that enable the clinic to provide telemedicine services from any of its many delivery sites.
“This is part of our community outreach so children who are in need can get medical care in the areas they’re in,” University of Miami TeleHealth and Clinical Outreach Associate Dean Dr. Anne Burdick told Saludify. “Instead of having a parent and child travel to a medical center, we’re able to evaluate them remotely while they are in the parking lot in Little Haiti or in Homestead.”
Simmon said TeleHealth also works in collaboration with Florida Department of Health’s Children’s Medical Services program providing specialty medical care access – dermatology, nutrition and genetics – for rural populations in Fort Pierce, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Panama City. The operation expects to expand son into additional pediatric specialties such as nephrology, psychiatry and cardiology.
“Maybe 85 percent of medicine is cognitive,” Simmon said. “Those types of services that can be provided by looking at medical records, [conducting] an examination and looking at images for lab results. They can advise a lower level provider in a primary care setting and provide care they weren’t getting or delayed in getting.”
He added, “It’s really a way to extend the reach of specialists and primary care physicians, partially because we are as a nation looking at how to more efficiently provide healthcare. These days with an aging population, shortage of providers, this is a way of more efficiently distributing a limited resource, which s our specialty brand.”