We’ve discussed at length how COVID-19 has changed healthcare on this blog, but one thing we haven’t discussed as much is the way it has highlighted inadequacies and inequalities that already existed. The pandemic has made clear that the existing methods of delivering care to patients left many people behind – particularly the elderly, people in rural areas, and people experiencing poverty. With advancements in medical panel PCs and tablets, mobile health clinics are the perfect solution to meeting underserved people where they are.

What is a Mobile Clinic?

A mobile health clinic is exactly what it sounds like – a medical clinic on wheels capable of providing basic levels of care to people in the field. Many mobile health clinics take the form of a specially modified truck, van, or RV capable of transporting medical staff alongside essential medical equipment and providing space for examinations and even some laboratory tests to be performed.

Mobile clinics are not without their limitations, however. Since most mobile clinics direct care to poor and uninsured people, finding funding to keep a mobile clinic operational can be challenging. Additionally, proper record keeping can be difficult when seeing patients in the field, and it can be challenging to get patients to attend referral or follow-up appointments. Then, there are the logistical issues that arise when administering care either outdoors or in tight quarters. Privacy can be an issue because many patients receive examinations within both ear and eyeshot of other patients or passers-by.

Even with their limitations, since these clinics are mobile, they can reach patients in remote and rural areas and underserved patients in more urban areas without the resources or ability to travel to get care. Mobile clinics are frequently run by charities, hospitals, and other service and fraternal organizations. They usually dispatch them to schools, libraries, community centers, events, and local businesses, facilitating 6.5 million visits per year in the US alone

Medical Tablets & Computers Bring Mobile Clinics into the Future

Mobile clinics are an essential point of care for many people. Post-covid, mobile clinics will need to become an even more central component of the healthcare system to bring care to as many people as possible. Fortunately, with the strategic deployment of medical tablets, alongside other rapidly advancing digital technology, we can provide an ever-increasing level of care to patients who rely on mobile clinics while expanding that care to new patients across the country.

Medical Tablets Eliminate the Fracturing of Care

One of the most significant difficulties facing mobile clinics has to do with the fracturing of care. Underserved people frequently do not have the kind of identification on their person at all times that other, more affluent patients might have. It can be challenging to get these patients to fill out medical forms accurately, if at all. Additionally, many have a difficult time fully recounting their medical history to mobile clinic staff – they could have received conflicting diagnoses for their symptoms or never received proper diagnoses in the first place. This can make keeping track of patients difficult, and many Mobile Clinics have had trouble getting patients to attend follow-up or referral appointments. 

All of this means that patients may not receive the same continuity of care they would receive at a traditional brick-and-mortar clinic or hospital. However, as the experience of one mobile health clinic in Detroit shows, medical tablets can go a long way to reducing the fracturing of care while helping to increase funding for the clinic itself.

Mobile EMR Leads to Increased Reimbursements

Covenant Community Care runs a mobile health clinic that delivers care to the homeless and other underserved people in the Detroit Metro Area. Because their mobile clinic is part of a larger community care network, it did not have its own system for electronic health record-keeping. Instead, they had to piggyback off their brick-and-mortar clinics and their systems. They used paper forms for everything – patient intake, vitals, doctors’ notes, etc. – and then manually copied all of the handwritten information into their computer system back at the clinic.

This created a few difficulties for Covenant. Firstly, it created a space issue. Paper forms take up massive amounts of space, meaning the clinic could only carry so many with them when they went out to visit patients on-site, severely limiting the number of patients they could see. Secondly, taking their notes back to the clinic to type them into the computer system manually was hugely inconvenient for clinic staff. It created massive redundancies in their EHR system, making it harder to bill patients or collect their medicare/Medicaid benefits. 

Fortunately for the people of Detroit, Covenant Community Care was able to address all of these issues with medical computers and tablets. The tablets allow clinic staff to chart and take notes whenever they are, while their built-in LTE connectivity means they can access their central EHR system directly from the field, eliminating the need to do their charting twice. This not only made it possible to see more patients in a day, but it also made it easier to enroll people in Medicaid and collect reimbursements, increasing funding for the clinic.

This isn’t an isolated example. The Blood Bank of Delmarva’s mobile blood bank recently adopted medical tablets to cut down on forms to great success. The FDA requires blood donors to fill out a 50-question questionnaire, and all those paper forms were becoming unwieldy for the clinic. Every time they needed to look up a patient’s information, they had to sift through thousands of paper questionnaires manually. With medical tablets, patient questionnaires can be retrieved with the push of a button, saving the clinic time and space.

Medical Computers Solve Space Concerns

Besides record keeping, medical clinics across the nation are constantly plagued by a lack of space. Medical equipment is often bulky and frequently needs to connect to a computer to operate.  Then there are the power concerns that mobile clinics face. All the medical computers, tablets, and equipment they utilize need electricity to work. Transporting generators and the fuel to run them is both dangerous and eats into precious storage space.

As Covenant Care discovered, all-in-one medical computers address each of these concerns. Their thin form factor combined with VESA mount compatibility means they can be securely mounted to the walls of whatever vehicle is being pressed into service as a mobile clinic, be it a van or an RV. Many models can be powered by hot-swappable batteries, which means one less device needs a generator to operate. And since medical computers are customizable with older legacy ports, mobile clinics using older equipment can be sure their devices are compatible with their computer. 

Final Thoughts

Already providing care to millions of patients, mobile clinics will be a crucial part of society’s effort to expand health care access to more and more people. None of this will be possible without technology like medical tablets and medical computers. 

If you’re interested in learning how medical computers and tablets can help mobile clinics expand care, contact the experts at Cybernet today.