Caring for children with limited access to quality healthcare has been the long-time mission of the Children's Health Fund. The New York City-based organization has been delivering comprehensive medical services to these children for more than 25 years, operating primary care programs around the country and becoming a fixture in the urban and rural landscape with its mobile pediatric medical units.
They may look like big blue buses, but each Children's Health Fund mobile health clinic is a fully equipped medical office. By equipping these mobile doctors' offices with 4G LTE wireless technology and enabling health IT solutions such as telemedicine, Verizon makes it easier for clinicians to access electronic health records and provide access to specialty care.
Verizon is working in partnership with Children's Health Fund at six program sites in San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, Detroit, and New York to bring quality healthcare to children and their families who do not have access to regular health care.
Redefining mobile healthcare
The "mobility" of these high-tech vehicles, however, has taken on new meaning. Launched in 2012, the Verizon- Children's Health Fund partnership has already "changed life dramatically," according to Children's Health Fund Medical Director Delaney Gracy.
"We're often asked to help with vaccine records for kids," said Gracy, who cared for children in homeless and domestic violence shelters from 2005 to 2010 as a Children's Health Fund pediatrician. "Schools here won't enroll children without immunization records. So there were a lot of parents coming into the shelters saying, 'my child has been out of school for two weeks because no one has records of his vaccines.'"
"Our staff would get on the phone to the city's vaccine registry. Invariably, it would take 15 to 30 minutes to find the right person. Or sometimes we'd have to call back in a few hours. Once the right record was found, it was a fax-only system. And getting the fax to a mobile unit or a shelter and then to the parent presented its own problems."
Helping more children in less time
Verizon's wireless technology has helped rewrite this story. "Once we got 4G LTE wireless and the ability to connect to a city-wide immunization roster, we were able to help these kids in real-time," said Gracy. "I can do it myself sitting in the van. Having this kind of connectivity means the kid can get back to school where he belongs and the parent feels good about taking care of their child. And as a physician, it means I'm able to examine three or four other kids that I wouldn't have seen otherwise," she said.
Wireless connectivity and access to electronic health records are just the start of the Verizon- Children's Health Fund partnership. A pilot program is under way in South Florida that enables Children's Health Fund providers to connect patients visiting the mobile units with specialists at a medical facility via video links.
Gracy foresees the day when mobile technologies can be used to help overcome social and cultural barriers, finding applications that not only will boost participation but also improve how well patients adhere to care regimens.