This model encompasses vans, recreational vehicles, and other vehicles that have been repurposed to provide space for clinical services or to deliver equipment to locations like schools to operate a temporary clinic. As a self-contained unit, mobile clinics can deliver services in geographically isolated areas or small towns that may lack access to healthcare providers. The mobile units offer many different services such as immunizations, screenings, oral health services, laboratory services, or counseling for chronic disease management. While the full range of healthcare services cannot be delivered in a mobile unit, many programs offer telemedicine services to link patients to specialists located elsewhere.
Examples of Rural Programs that use Mobile Clinics
- The North Country Health Consortium is a mature network of rural health and human services providers that has been developing and implementing programs to improve access to health care to the rural population of Northern New Hampshire for more than 20 years. Their portable dental program, called the Molar Express, regularly visits schools, nursing homes, and other community sites to deliver general dental services like cleanings, extractions, and sealants to children and adults without a regular dental care provider. The North Country Health Consortium's mission is to lead innovative collaboration to improve the health status of Northern NH.
- The Health Wagon provides mobile health services to rural and medically-underserved residents of southwest Virginia. Their mobile unit travels to multiple counties on a regular schedule, providing screenings and treatment for people at risk of diabetes and other chronic health conditions. They also provide medication management, eye and dental care, immunizations, facilitation of telemedicine consultations with specialists, and other healthcare services. Find out more about this program in RHIhub's Rural Health Models and Innovations.
- The Mobile Screening Program for Miners is a partnership between Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton, New Mexico and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. A specially-equipped mobile clinic contains a chest X-ray unit and conducts spirometry testing and screenings for hearing loss and musculoskeletal issues. Clinic staff can also connect coal miners to pulmonary specialists through a telemedicine consultation. Similar mobile screening programs are available for miners in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and eastern Kentucky through the Enhanced Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program.
- Health insurer Highmark has created Health Care on the Go, a mobile clinic that visits rural areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia to provide care to at-risk members of Highmark's Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act health exchange plans who often forgo treatment because of difficulties in accessing care. The focus is on providing preventive services and screenings.
Considerations for Implementation
The Rural Health Information Hub's Rural Oral Health Toolkit - Mobile Dental Services Model and Rural Services Integration Toolkit – Mobile Unit Model discuss implementation considerations for mobile units including the importance of relationships with community stakeholders, staffing needs, and costs to consider.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Resources to Learn More
Mobile Health Clinics Association
This trade organization for programs and providers supports the development and sustainability of mobile health clinics. The group provides a forum for communication between providers, including an annual meeting, as well as webinars and tools like guidance on budgeting or developing a business plan for a mobile clinic.
Health Clinics in the United States: Reducing Disparities
This report documents the history and development of the mobile health clinic landscape in the U.S. as both clinical care providers and as a research network. It also describes efforts of the Mobile Health Map, a collaborative of 700 mobile health clinics, that is working to evaluate its collective impact on the health of clinic users.
Organization(s): Harvard Medical School, Mobile Health Clinics Association, Mobile Health Map