This time our story comes from the Dental Van, where our five year old patient Stella has shown great improvement in her oral health. Her parents learned some key information on their visits to the Dental Van and two years after that initial appointment she’s no longer dealing with cavities! We’re happy to see another family get the information they need to ensure a healthier lifestyle.
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Over the last few months, we’ve had some great acquisitions for the Mobile Care workforce. One of these amazing additions is our Cargo Van! The Cargo Van is our latest vehicle to join the Mobile Family and it’s already had a complete MCC makeover! Thanks to Do Right Services our van looks fresh and ready to serve the Chicagoland community one school at a time.
This addition gives us the flexibility to see dental patients inside the schools, as opposed to exclusively treating them in the van, which means expanding the overall scope of our dental program. More children deserve to have quality dental care, and the new Cargo Van will get that done!
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.
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
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