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Posts by rachelalessing

Meet Nurse Conway!

It would be nearly impossible to work with schools without a school representative, and in most cases our point person is the school nurse. We started working with Nurse Conway in 2014. She is an integral part of our model-of-care and why we’re able to reach so many students in the South Suburbs. She is also the first person we call when we’re going to try something new and innovative  – she was involved in Lung Fest, COVID testing/vaccination, implementing universal consent forms, and launching home environment assessments. All of our clinics team appreciate the hard work Nurse Conway does to make our school visits run smoothly!

We asked Nurse Conway for her perspective on MCC and the importance of accessible care:

Why is having easy access to health services important? 
Easy access to health services is critical to the well-being of our students.  It would be fabulous if all of our families had equal access to health services at the same level.  Unfortunately, that is not our reality for various reasons.  Having services available at school through Mobile Care levels the playing field for all students which ultimately has a direct impact on learning.  If we are able to close that gap by providing critical health care services, our students will be able to perform at their highest capacity.

How has Mobile Care positively impacted your students?

Since partnering with Mobile Care Chicago, our district has been positively impacted in various ways.  For instance, our students now have access to services earlier in development during those critical years of growth.  They are able to be monitored by a service that can follow them and intervene with a medical plan if necessary.  Our students are now spending less time out of school because their needs are being met through the services mobile care provides.  We have also seen a steady increase in medical compliance as mandated by ISBE.  Students that are in need are scheduled for an appointment on the mobile van and are brought up to date with all the necessary medical requirements for their grade levels.

What makes Mobile Care an ideal organization to work beside?

It has been a pleasure to work with the staff from Mobile Care Chicago!  They are flexible, reliable and consistent.  They are here on their scheduled days on time.  They are always professional and knowledgeable.  They have been flexible over the years and just always willing to make sure that at the end of their day, they have provided the services that parents have consented to with the highest level of quality.  They have made my job as a school nurse that much more rewarding!

What health service do you wish more students could easily access on a van like Mobile Care’s? 

Definitely vision and mental health services.  Those are the 2 things that are needed a lot more frequently than in previous years, but the access is limited.  This is across all ages and grade levels.  Our students would benefit tremendously from having greater access in these 2 areas.  It’s not as rewarding to provide a parent with outside resources, not knowing if the service will actually be provided.  There’s less chance the parent will actually follow up, which impacts the student negatively in the long run.

What is your favorite Chicago spot!

I do love Blue Aguave Tequila Bar on Kinzie.  I also enjoy the wine tastings at Cooper’s Hawk Winery.

The Impact of Free & Charitable Clinics

Each summer, after the close of Mobile Care Chicago’s fiscal year on June 30, our programs conduct an anonymous patient survey. We ask about a number of factors related to our mission, especially what we can do to continue to improve communication and convenience. The vast majority of our organization’s innovations are in response to suggestions from our families, creating an annual process of adaptation before the school year starts and our clinics again kick into high gear. For that reason, these past ten years, I’ve made time to read all of the hundreds of surveys personally.

As a free and charitable clinic, our survey always ends in the month meant to celebrate the vital role that we play in our Nation’s health infrastructure (August is Free & Charitable Clinic Month). Free clinics across the country provide safe, convenient, non-judgmental spaces for people seeking medical care. Without free clinics, many people who live in areas that lack medical infrastructure, or who avoid preventative visits because they’re uninsured or have barely-there private insurance, their primary source of medical access is an Emergency Department—the most expensive option that’s least capable of managing chronic conditions.

As one parent whose child has been using our clinics for six years wrote on their survey: “MCC has been giving us a great service, since we have been coming to the asthma van my daughter has not been in the emergency room. Thank you MCC!”

40% of our patients had used an Emergency Department in the year before joining their mobile unit. After one year in our programs, only 3% of those same patients had been back to an Emergency Department. That staggering contrast says something about the power of these clinics to change the trajectory of people’s health. Moreover, free clinics reverse a frustrating economic burden that, paradoxically, is placed on people least able to pay for it: the high cost of medical care in emergency settings. The average ED visit in Illinois cost $1,818 in 2017, which means that if we just take the 37% of our patients who were dependent on an ED and haven’t returned, across all of our programs, we saved the healthcare system a cool $3,796,202.16 last year. (Assuming we all believe that health care costs haven’t gone up in the last five years.)

If we focus specifically on asthma, one of the highest drivers of preventable health care costs including ED visits, the State of Illinois reports that asthma costs $3,266 per person per year. For each asthma patient we take on, we save the healthcare system $2,198.27. 

We at Mobile Care don’t get any of those dollars (though, to be clear, we would take them if the State insisted), so the money itself isn’t the point. What’s represented is that free clinics are able to be a reliable source of medical care and, more importantly, health education that saves people from waiting until something gets so awful that they can’t continue normal activities. Moreover, what’s represented is that preventative care and health education, when offered without barriers like cost, transportation, long wait times, and in a language people can understand, it’s highly effective at making sure people get better and therefore don’t require emergency care. As another parent put it, 

“The staff ensure that you feel welcomed and help you understand why they prescribe the meds and how they work. This helps a lot! Even the kids understand and are more willing to take the medications as directed. Thank you!”

As we celebrate free and charitable clinics this month, what strikes me most is their ability to reach people left out of the traditional health care system, and to facilitate sustained change in their health and wellness. Thank your continued support as we strive to reach as many people as possible this fiscal year with free, quality, preventative care.

 
Matt Siemer
Executive Director

Event Registration is LIVE.

We’re raising $5,000 to educate and empower 900 more families on Mobile Care clinics by our event on June 9th!! Can you help us reach our goal? 

We’ll be raising money to provide direct medical care to 10,000 families by 2023, and the money we raise through this campaign in particular will provide education to 900 families before our event on June 9!

I’m intrigued! How can I help Mobile Care reach 900 more patients with free life-changing medical treatment and health education? 
Luckily, the answer is simple (and fun!). Purchase tickets to attend our annual Cheers for Children’s Health Event by clicking here.Can’t make the event? You can also help us reach more patients by donating here.

Want to donate AND attend the event? Donate any amount and you’ll receive a registration code. Use the code to register before the event so we know you’re coming.

Tell me more about this fundraising event!  
Cheers for Children’s Health is our annual fundraising event. Admission includes drinks, food, and interactive games. Meet our board, our clinic staff, tour an MCC clinic, and enjoy the beautiful space FLATs has so kindly donated to us. The Duncan is an accessible, large outdoor space filled with lots of cozy seating. Cheers for Children’s Health is a family friendly event- feel free to bring your kids!

Okay I’m in! Where do I buy tickets again? 
Click here!! We can’t wait to see you on June 9th 🙂

Reach 10,000 Patients Annually Across All Programs: 3

In our Strategic Plan we stated that we’d increase patient capacity by 40%. Knowing the importance of this comes with understanding the lack of specialty care in some of the most at-risk neighborhoods throughout the greater Chicago area. By increasing our patient capacity, we are creating systems, programs and avenues to assist with closing the gap as it pertains to access to quality care, with the goal being to reduce health disparities, increase health equity and level the playing field in availability of care. In an effort to reach this goal, Mobile Care will continue with the tried and true method of adding new school sites as well as resurveying current school populations for new patients and further removing the barrier of location and transportation by permanently offering virtual visits as an option. We have also added additional services like physicals and immunizations, partnered with Howard Brown Health to meet the demands of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in addition to performing HIV testing in partnership with Howard Brown Health. We’ve worked with PerfectVision to deliver no cost eye exams and glasses to kids and most recently we’ve partnered with UIC to address the opioid crisis. All of these efforts have greatly expanded our reach. Using some of the tactics above we are diligently working to bring our unique patient (for asthma) volume up to 1,200 by the close of the current fiscal year. When this is accomplished, more families across the Chicagoland area will have received high quality care to address various needs. Thousands of kids will have reduced their trips to the ER, hospital stays and school absences related to asthma/allergies and, hopefully, have a better quality of life. 

-Kamari Thompson, Director of Patient Services

Children with untreated chronic conditions experience increased school absenteeism and poorer performance in school compared to their peers. Children with untreated chronic conditions use expensive ERs and hospitals for medical care at triple the rate of other children. The vast majority of preventable emergency department visits among children, as well as negative health outcomes and cost, are being shouldered by economically disadvantaged parents who have children with chronic health conditions. This cannot be a reality we allow ourselves to accept. 

Mobile Care Chicago’s Board and staff are committed to maintaining healthcare access for the thousands of people who came to us for the first time during the pandemic, but doing so will mean substantially increasing our clinic capacity. I feel very fortunate to report that, thanks to our many individual and grantmaking supporters, this expansion is already well underway. We’ve dramatically expanded our clinic staff (from 13 staff in the first year of our Strategic Plan to 20 staff currently), and we’re going to be hiring more positions in 2022. Our ultimate goal is to serve over 10,000 children annually across all of our programs by the end of 2023. Just as important, however, is to use this opportunity to streamline our protocols and make it easier to scale beyond 10,000 children in the years beyond. There are tens of thousands of children in and around Chicago lacking necessary medical and dental care. As an organization nationally recognized for its ability to reach and effectively treat people in need, we must do everything possible to drive the health clinics people need to their neighborhoods quickly and consistently. I’m excited to implement our plan through 2023—I know many lives will be changed for the better because of this effort.

Matt Siemer, Executive Director

Create Open Booking for All Programs (patients can make their own appointments): 2

Patients currently make appointments on Mobile Care Chicago’s clinics in one of three ways: First, they can add their name to a school list when our clinic date is announced; second, they can call our Patient Services department and have the scheduling team manually add an appointment into the schedule; or third, they will get a call from Patient Services reminding them that they’re due back. Fielding calls, tracking due-backs in excel, and keeping separate lists for each school is, to understate the issue, cumbersome and opaque to our patients (and our partners). Yet each clinic we operate has its own unique rotation of community locations and its own rotation schedule, so most traditional online scheduling systems are overmatched by our 150+ clinic locations.

Through our Strategic Plan interviews, our patients asked us to think about the bigger picture: the role automation can play in patient outreach and empowerment. Parents may sign their child up to visit the Dental Van weeks before their child’s dental appointment, but they don’t receive an automated reminder the day before the Dental Van will be at their school. Asthma patients, by contrast, do receive regular reminders of their appointments, but if someone can no longer make their asthma appointment, their only option to modify their appointment is via phone call, something that can be hard for parents while they’re at work. A lack of automated reminders and web-based scheduling assistance may have been ok when MCC was managing 3,000 patient appointments annually over two clinics, but now involves head-spinning challenges for a Patient Services department that is coordinating five different clinics and facilitating almost 8,000 patient appointments annually.

Under the Strategic Plan, we will expand Mobile Care’s patient-facing communications and marketing ability, and add communication technology upgrades. Though we’ve done quite a lot of work in this area, the reason we score this a 2 out of 5 is because of the complexity of the challenge. We’ve determined that when it comes to open booking, we need to start with vetting new electronic health record databases (EHR’s), and through that process we hope that one of two things will happen: either we find an EHR that has an open booking function built into it, or the EHR is compatible with a scheduling system that functions almost like a customer relationship manager (or is a CRM). 

We’ve narrowed down our top EHR’s, and we’re talking with sales reps (everyone’s favorite job). From there, we will choose a few of the best EHR’s, demo them with our Patient Services team, and build out a universal scheduling framework so patients can be updated on their appointment times and make changes to their appointments. When open booking is implemented, patients will have many more tools to track and modify their appointments. Patient Services will have a less complex workflow and can scale to assist a higher volume of patients more easily, and MCC can confidently achieve its goal of expanding to 10,000 patients served by the end of 2023. 

-Rachel Lessing, Communications and Development Manager

Expand the Patient Services Department: In Personnel, and In Scope to Address More Social Determinants of Health: 3

The expansion of the Patient Services Department is important because Mobile Care is expanding. Mobile Care is expanding its reach, in terms of the services we provide, the regions we serve, and our patient population. By doing this we are able to offer our services to a greater number of families and address a greater need. Patient Services has hired additional staff and added indoor air quality monitoring to our home assessments. We’ve expanded our home assessment and physicals/immunizations programs, we’ve partnered with other organizations to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis. We’ve added additional school sites in the south suburbs and assisted with providing much-needed specialty care that had not been available in the area previously. Mobile Care is always looking for opportunities to meet the needs of our communities and to do whatever we can to improve health equity. As we expand, we will hopefully provide the best care for not only asthma, allergies and dental but also for primary care, mental health, violence prevention, etc. Perhaps one day, the name Mobile Care will ring bells throughout our region, because we created access regardless of financial status, social status, race, or geographic location. We paved new roads to quality care.

-Kamari Thompson, Director of Patient Services

When we speak in public health conversations about the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), because it has become a buzzword for so many different things, I fear that we tend to abstract them into the realm of mystical complexity where they remain acknowledged but unaddressed, present in discussion but too all-consuming to affect. Healthy People 2030 lists five different sub-groups of SDOH, and any one of these categories would require us to up-end our present social structure to comprehensively address. Yet, at the heart of SDOH is a simple and urgent syllogism: 

  • In our society, a lot of people don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs
  • As a result, they are forced to make concessions on many or all of their basic needs
  • Keeping people, and families in particular, in an economic position where their basic needs cannot be met is not free or economically responsible because, ultimately, there is a massive social cost that must be paid, through our healthcare spending and in other areas; far higher than if people had been given the funds to meet their needs in the first place
  • Because the social cost is so high, we as a society need to document all of the areas where low-income people have had to concede their basic needs partially or fully so that we can understand and try to remediate the price we, collectively, are paying
  • In doing this accounting, we are documenting a road: once people are set upon this road it leads to poor health, dramatically increased risk of chronic health conditions, huge unpaid hospital bills, and untimely death. We may not see where this road leads in each individual step, when the end is not yet on the horizon, but we know where it goes because people have walked this road before and are now in the process of walking it, everyday.

Mobile Care Chicago is a very small charitable organization that specializes in delivering medical care to people with chronic conditions, and the question might naturally arise what meaningful role an organization like ours can play in creating systemic change, the likes of which would move the needle on mortality rates, healthcare spending, and the prevalence of chronic health issues.

The answer, which may surprise you, is that a small organization can do an awful lot, and we are committed to doing even more. Our approach to social determinants starts with people and their specific needs. Not every family experiences all social determinants of health in the same way or to the same degree. One issue, like housing, might be at a crisis level, while something else, like access to nutritious foods, might not be an issue at that time. Addressing needs, then, starts by listening to specific people, and developing unique plans. The reason we emphasize an expansion of the community health workers in our Patient Services Department when discussing SDOH, is because building capacity allows us to ask more questions and resolve a greater set of issues.

Based on the answers our families gave us last year, we know that these are the social determinants that we mitigate currently:

Transportation – over 70% of MCC patients report that a significant barrier to receiving consistent medical care is an inability to take time off work to travel to distant clinics that accept public insurance or will grant appointments without charge for uninsured patients. By driving high-quality medical care within blocks of patients’ homes, and offering all services free of charge, MCC removes a substantial barrier. The organization also offers telehealth appointments so that parents do not have to take off work and travel in order to be present at medical appointments.

Health Behaviors – Effective preventative care is not necessarily about how often one sees a doctor, it’s about strong, intentional health habits that promote wellness. All of MCC’s medical appointments have a substantial focus on education and empowerment, teaching and reinforcing for families the specific actions, like regular tooth brushing, use asthma control medications, allergy trigger avoidance/reduction, that will aid them in their goal of overall wellness. MCC’s Patient Services department continues to provide education with regular case management calls between regularly scheduled patient appointments. 

Safe Housing – Mobile Care Chicago offers Home Environmental Assessments, in partnership with the EPA Region 5 and the American Lung Association’s Illinois Chapter. These assessments proactively identify and remove allergy triggers that make a home potentially dangerous for a person with severe allergic reactions. These assessments also feed back into reinforcement of positive health habits, giving Patient Services staff a better idea of what they can emphasize through education.

Equal Access to Education – Asthma and tooth pain are the two most common causes of school absenteeism, according to the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness. Over 50% of new MCC patients had missed days of school for a chronic medical condition in the year before enrollment in their mobile clinic. One year later, 96% of those same patients had not missed any days of school.

Access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities – MCC tries to partner directly with local food distribution points to ensure that families who need both resources do not have to make multiple trips to receive the assistance that they need. Physical activity is a major indicator of asthma control, and through providing sport physicals so that students can participate in athletics, and by offering comprehensive asthma management, MCC allows children who would have significant barriers to athletics and healthy play to participate in those activities.

Polluted air and water – MCC frequently collaborates on research that can measure and address potential causes of harm in air and water. Most recently, MCC and UIC partnered on a study of particulate matter and airborne heavy metals in Chicago’s Southeast side. The findings are being presented to community groups presently, and are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health under the title “Assessment of Metal Concentrations and Associations with Pulmonary Function among Children with Asthma in Chicago, Illinois.” Other publications on other aspects of metal exposure are planned in 2022.

Language barriers – All of MCC’s clinics are bi-lingual (Eng/Spn) so that the portion of MCC’s patient population that feels more comfortable speaking Spanish, which is over 60% of current patients, can receive education and support in their native language.

Is this a comprehensive methodology to address all Social Determinants of Health? No. It’s not even close. We’re frequently in discussions with our patients and community partners to understand how we can do more. 

Through addressing these substantial health barriers, however, there’s no doubt that Mobile Care Chicago has helped change the trajectory of patient families. We’ve shared stories publicly in the past about patients who were able to focus more in school, participate in athletics, go on to college, or were inspired to pursue jobs in healthcare because of their experience on the mobile units. We’ve also shared stories of families who had close brushes with death and found their health completely transformed through regular access to a specialist aboard our Asthma Vans. Indeed, if every child had the same access to medical providers as our patients, it would save the City of Chicago over $11.7 million dollars annually in decreased hospitalizations, and another $24.9 million in decreased ER utilization. Sometimes resolving health barriers for families doesn’t require a place that can do a little of everything, but rather a place that can do some things really, really well. Expanding our Patient Services Department translates into expanded capacity to listen to what our patient families need and, ultimately, to adapt our organization to resolve their most urgent issues.

–Matt Siemer, Executive Director

Create an Engaging Educational Experience for Children: 3

The most important component of Mobile Care is our patients. And knowing that we are equipping them the forever tool of knowledge, is priceless. I believe the old Saying “knowledge is Power.” I also believe that prevention through education is a major key. When we teach our families, our patients in particular, how to identify and reduce triggers, recognize symptoms, properly administer medications and create safe home environment we give them tools to improve their quality of life wherever they are and in whatever stage of life they may be in. The staff at Mobile Care never misses an opportunity to educate. As a matter of fact, most of the time we spend speaking with patients is education-based.  We’ve done in-school (pre pandemic) interactive asthma education, we currently do medication education on controller vs quick relief vs allergy medications and when, how and how much to administer. There is also the teaching of proper spacer technique. All of this sounds routine and pretty boring, but then I like to do a thing I call teach-backs. During teach backs the patient (when age appropriate) teaches me or the staff on that van which medications to take, when and how much, when presented with different scenarios. They’re also given the opportunity to demonstrate proper spacer technique. This helps build confidence and encourage the patient to take an active role in controlling their asthma and allergies. I believe that we’ve laid a great foundation and as things progress and we are given greater permissions and less restrictions there will be more opportunities to offer more engaging educational experiences. It is my hope that by educating those enrolled in our program directly that we will indirectly elevate the level of knowledge of those folks that they come in contact with in their daily lives and both kids and adults with asthma and allergies will be adequately educated and able to live a more controlled and asymptomatic life.

-Kamari Thompson, Patient Services Manager

Oral Health Education is an essential component of the dental program. The dental team provides a prevention service, and we strive to educate our patients on the importance of dental care. Many sites/schools are in underserved communities that struggle to receive primary medical/dental care. Patient families, as a result, do not have the privilege of receiving dental care or education very often. Or many parents who fear the dentist and do not have the proper education/experience to share the positive side of dental care with their children. 

The dental team educates the K through 2nd-grade students on the importance of healthy eating and brushing/flossing habits. We believe educating the younger children will make a more significant impact and hopefully enlist healthy habits. The team does not leave anyone behind; they also give every student chairside oral health education.   

Dr. Navarro and our team of Dental Assistants have presentations with Flossy, the puppet, and a giant toothbrush to show the students the proper way to brush their teeth. Dr. Navarro engages the students by asking questions and having students involved with brushing the puppet’s teeth. She also educates the students with other props on the importance of healthy eating habits. We created an Oral Health Education video over the summer. Due to covid, it was hard to get groups of children together for a presentation. This video helped us reach many students at smaller sites. 

If we could involve parents in this educational portion, it may make a more considerable difference to their children’s dental habits. Preventive education for the whole family would be a dream come true. 

 -Vicky Alcantar, Dental Program Manager

Talk to the leaders of our core programs and they’ll all tell you that 50% or more of managing childhood conditions is education. Each patient visit, regardless of program, incorporates tons of teach-backs and educational materials to help kids and parents stay healthy. The issue we hope to address in our Strategic Plan is building on our success: there’s been a lot of research in education sciences regarding incorporation of interactive and gamification elements to help children learn. We didn’t have those elements when our Strategic Plan started, but we’d like to make education fun and substantial, with lessons children will take with them for the rest of their lives.

Again, we’re not starting from scratch. A major component of every health service available at MCC is patient education. If a patient doesn’t understand the health issue they are dealing with, how their treatment works, and how they can continue that treatment at home, their chances at recovery will be negatively impacted. We wouldn’t want to fill a cavity for a child, and then not educate them on the importance of brushing and flossing- or they’ll show up again in a few months with more cavities. On the asthma and allergy side of things, there are many things the patient needs to do at home to stay on top of managing their condition between visits. This education keeps them safe, and out of the emergency room. Making education engaging and fun is important for many reasons: we want to empower patients to effectively manage their condition and to feel optimistic about their treatment. But by making it fun, our patients are more likely to remember what they’ve learned.

On the communications side, our role is to create materials that support the things our doctors and nurses teach every clinic day. So far, we’ve created an educational welcome packet for Dental Van patients. The packet is visual and colorful, filled with oral health management tips. Our team also filmed an oral health education video for the Dental Team, starring kids ages 3-12, and scripted by the team themselves! We’ve also extended patient education onto our social media pages. Our next step is to work with the Asthma Team and Patient Services to update their educational materials and incorporate videos for asthma and allergies as well. Both programs could benefit from more video content, which is a priority for our team this year. There is a lot of work to do on this topic for communications, but luckily we get to work with the experts in our clinics to bring patient education projects to life. 

– Rachel Lessing, Development and Communications Manager

Integrate Data from State, City, and MCO Partners into MCC’s Geographic Analysis: 1

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently about our mobile clinics is, “how do you choose where to go?” This is a hard question to answer. Our clinics can’t be everywhere at once (though one can hope!). Each mobile clinic can only go to an average of 17 sites each month, which makes the available dates on our calendar our most scarce resource.

The way we choose where to go is, right now, community-based. We ask our patients what they’re hearing from friends, we ask nurses at schools, we ask health partners, and public health officials, and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. We take it very seriously. If we don’t choose our locations wisely, we risk overlooking the areas of greatest need.

For all nine years that I’ve been at Mobile Care Chicago, in addition to the above, we’ve desperately sought out every scrap of data to help inform our understanding of where mobile clinics can be most helpful: what areas have the highest rate of dental carries? Which neighborhoods lead the County in ED visits for asthma? Which zip codes have the lowest ratios of health infrastructure to population size, which have the fewest providers accepting Medicaid, and which have the highest childhood morbidity/mortality rates due to chronic conditions? Of crucial importance to us: where are low-income people being pushed out of, and which areas are they moving to? Ideally, we would want to see each of these data points (and many others) in three or five year trends, and we would want to bring them into conversation with each other to get a picture of where we are going to be most needed not just in the present, but also in the near future.

Much of Illinois’ potential public health data exists in Medicaid claims because that’s what everyone is required to submit in exchange for money. Claims data is fragmented among many Managed Care Organizations, while public health data is separately kept by the City, County, and/or State. Access to data could inform our decision-making process, and for that reason we unceasingly pursue partnerships that would get us access to aggregate claims data, public health data, or both. 

You would think that all of this information would be widely available, and frequently updated. Don’t public health officials have a vested interest in assisting charitable clinics, since each patient MCC takes on saves the State over $15,000 each year? It brings me no pleasure to defy your expectations and report that that data is not only rarely made available, in many cases it partially exists or doesn’t exist at all. There are not centralized “data sharing” repositories in our health departments that are staffed to field aggregate-level data questions from health partners and, with budget cuts in prior years at the City and State levels, in some cases there isn’t a person who even knows who data questions should be directed to. In many cases, if an organization like ours requests data, it has to be pulled together on a one-time basis by public servants who have other responsibilities and, as such, it can take months to receive, and it can’t be replicated or validated with frequency.

Given this long summary, many people (myself included) would be tempted to see this as a textbook case of a Quixotic task and toss it aside in favor of more immediate action. But I appreciate our partners and staff pushing me and all of us at Mobile Care to not only defy that temptation, but to do the opposite and make it a focal point of our Strategic Plan. We cannot lose focus on how crucial this item is, and what it represents: a government-induced access barrier that separates people from the resources that could help them. 

We often talk about “access barriers” as something individual people have to overcome: travel, no time off work, inability to afford co-pays and out of pocket costs, etc. To be sure, those are all important. But when we can’t share data, it’s like a football coach telling a quarterback, “here’s the play call, but don’t tell the wide receivers where to run.” 

If health providers ask our public health system, “where do you need us most?” and the answer back is we don’t know and we can’t invest to find out, then it’s our fellow residents who suffer. There has to be a better and more compassionate way for us to all consistently align our focus toward the best interest of our neighbors, and until there is one, this item cannot be removed from our priority list.

-Matt Siemer, Executive Director

Expand the Scope of Home-based Services for Parents: 5

Expanding the scope of home-based services for parents is important because it allows us to reach people who would otherwise struggle to access needed medical services.  

This item was emphasized in our Strategic Plan because for years we noticed a frustrating peculiarity: when we went walking through our partner schools to talk to teachers or use the restroom, we’d stumble upon children who had no-showed for their patient appointments earlier in the same day! Historically, when we were not able to complete a patient appointment, it wasn’t because the children weren’t available, it’s because the parents were not available. They couldn’t make it to the school due to another obligation: work, couldn’t get a babysitter for younger siblings, or a competing, emergency appointment. 

In the first year of our Strategic Plan implementation, before the pandemic, we began allowing parents to access their child’s appointment virtually. We expanded our implementation of virtual visits during the pandemic, and we continue to offer parents the opportunity to connect to their child’s appointment remotely. Mobile Care also launched virtual home assessments during the pandemic, which have allowed us to provide a greater level of convenience and care to patient families. Our COVID vaccination team, as of last month, has completed 1,000 home-based COVID-19 vaccinations, and recently began offering flu shots for home-bound seniors as well. I believe that we are in a good place with our home-based services, though we will continue to pursue home-based expansion opportunities to the benefit of the families we serve. 

-Kamari Thompson, Director of Patient Services

Assist Communities in Health Promotion by Expanding MCC’s Communications and Marketing Ability: 3

Communication barriers are often the root of why so many people have trouble accessing health services (and many other resources). The premise of MCC- connecting and communicating with families through their schools- largely solves that problem, but as Mobile Care evolves, and as the pandemic continues on, it’s not enough. If disinvested Chicago-area communities aren’t aware that MCC exists, or how our model of care works, we can’t effectively assist them in improving their health, even though we have the resources to do so. 

Many people who need our services don’t have cell phones, smartphones, or access to the internet – where we promote our services on social media platforms and our website. The majority of our communities don’t have media sources engaged in sharing free resources, or active neighborhood facebook groups. To solve this problem, we do a little bit of everything. We’ve created materials for health fairs and back-to-school fairs, we’ve printed out flyers to pass out at food distribution sites, we’ve posted on facebook pages of local businesses and asked for help from those with reach in their communities. We make sure to use geotags and hashtags so if someone searches for free asthma care or free dental care in Chicago – MCC pops up. As a result, many patients were able to schedule appointments with us even when schools were closed.

We’ve also worked to create consistent branding and messaging that is true to our mission, messaging that helps people understand who we truly are. We don’t want anyone to assume that “free” means quick, low-quality care, or that they’ll eventually receive a surprise bill for our services. 

There are web-based components in our communications plan as well: we plan to update the Mobile Care website, create video content, add tools like open booking, and maybe even a live map of our clinics. These tools have been requested by many of our patients and will be prioritized alongside the more traditional grassroots efforts described above. 

There is always going to be more work to do on this item, however, and the work will always be varied. To effectively assist communities in health promotion, we need to continue to listen to the schools and communities we serve, analyze the response from each strategy we implement, and build communications and marketing strategies around what works best for our patients. 

–Rachel Lessing, Communications & Development Manager

Mobile Care Chicago