Providers test-drive mobile clinics for preventive care

A compass pointing to the word "Innovative"
Mobile clinics are an option for some providers looking to offer more preventive care. (Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

New and emerging service lines have promised to shake up the healthcare industry by reaching wide patient populations, treating patients in appropriate care settings and delivering preventive care that can save costs over the long run. 

Promising new strategies include "microhospitals," which offer full hospital services with the convenience and accessibility of urgent care clinics. And freestanding emergency rooms are a potential solution for emergency department overcrowding; experts say their numbers could quadruple in the coming years. 

RELATED: 'Micro-hospital' model could help underserved populations 

Now some healthcare organizations are turning to mobile clinics to deliver preventive care to underserved populations where they are. 

Barriers to care access include high coststransportation issues and lack of trust. That's where mobile clinics come in. Providers in a number of cities have launched clinics on wheels to connect with patient populations that may not come through the hospital doors before their conditions become serious, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline.  

RELATED: 5 ways to accelerate healthcare innovation and delivery system reform 

Key targets are so-called "million dollar patients," who make their first contact with the healthcare system only after their condition is advanced, Anthony Vavasis, M.D., an internist at New York City's Mount Sinai Beth Israel who has studied the impacts of mobile clinics, told the publication. 

"If you build connections early on, then you can avoid having them come to the emergency room for complications later," he said. 

Though the mobile clinic model has shown positive results, according to the article, there are still challenges. Health executives may balk at costs: the Advisory Board estimates that the cost to start a mobile clinic is about $300,000. And underfunded mobile clinics won't accomplish their goals, according to Stateline.