Mobile clinic brings health care to patients’ doors–from a bigger, brighter van
A three-year-old patient was behind on her vaccine appointments, and a look at her chart showed other medical needs—a history of seizures and some missed appointments with her specialist. When Nurse Practitioner Katie Brown saw the toddler’s chart, she knew she had to find out what was happening—and she had to help.
Katie learned that it was nearly impossible for the child’s mother to show up for the appointments she was scheduling due to conflicts and caring for her other children– whether it was routine vaccines or other care.
That’s where Hennepin Healthcare’s Pediatric Mobile Health team comes in—bringing medical care right to the doors of people who need it and helping them leap other barriers to accessing care.
Responding to a Pandemic Need
The mobile clinic started in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to a precipitous decline in childhood immunizations because families were afraid of exposure to COVID-19 at the doctor’s office and struggling with childcare and transportation difficulties.
“I knew we had to bring healthcare to the community and meet our patients where they are,” said Pediatrician Dawn Martin. “Our communities, who already experience barriers to healthcare, transportation, language, and childcare were even more impacted by the pandemic.”
“The pandemic changed much of the way society functions,” says Sheyanga Beecher, APRN, CNP, Pediatrics at Hennepin Healthcare. “We learned that we could have nearly everything – groceries, over-the-counter medicines, even toilet paper delivered to our doorstep. So why not healthcare?”
The clinic did just that—bringing a mobile van right to families with a team of medical professionals inside. Through mobile runs, pop-up clinics, and outreach events, the team has done outreach to over 1,700 patients and served 800 patients since May 2020, administering over 3,500 flu vaccines and 2,000 other vaccines.
Katie has been participating in mobile runs twice a month for a year now. It’s harder than serving patients in the downtown pediatric primary care clinic where she usually works, but seeing the family’s gratitude keeps her going: “People are inevitably so grateful when you come to their house and get them what their kid needs, because people want their kids to be healthy, people want their kids to get care. I think our whole mission is health equity and access to care. That’s definitely the core foundation of what we’re doing.”
Expanding to Bridge a Health Care Gap
Now the mobile clinic is getting a facelift—a new, larger van with an inviting superhero theme, an exam table, more seating for staff and families, and ample storage space for pediatric equipment.
It has also expanded from that original mission—providing not just vaccines but also well child check-ups and other basic healthcare services. The team systematically screens families for social determinants of health, including food insecurity and childcare challenges, and refers them to other resources when appropriate – including the option to consider telehealth for appointments.
Meet the Team and Tour the Clinic
On Wednesday, April 27 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm – just in time for National Infant Immunization Week – join the mobile clinic health team for a celebration of this successful program. Come to the northeast corner of 8th street and Chicago Avenue on Hennepin Healthcare’s downtown campus for music, trivia, a tour of the clinic, and ice cream.