How much does it cost to run a mobile clinic?

Mobile clinic dashboard

When starting in a mobile clinic, planning and budgeting is crucial. In the beginning, the focus may be on purchasing the mobile medical unit, but it’s important to also plan for ongoing expenses. In this article, we will explore mobile clinic costs beyond the initial purchase of the vehicle.

Ballpark estimate of mobile clinic costs

Your mobile clinic’s costs will depend on many factors, including staffing, services provided, the type of vehicle, and miles traveled. Among the mobile clinics registered for Mobile Health Map, the average annual operating cost is approximately $275,000. The Family Van, a mobile clinic in Boston, spends about $500,000 annually including personnel, fuel, maintenance, and supplies. Some clinics cost significantly more, while others spend less. In this article, we explore mobile clinic costs for ongoing operations.

It’s all about the people

Personnel will likely be your largest expense. For example, ninety percent of The Family Van’s operating budget is for personnel.

Not only is personnel the biggest budget item, it is also the most important. Getting and keeping the right staff is essential to building trust and rapport with community members.

Your mobile clinic’s staffing will depend on the services you plan to offer. In addition to someone who can drive the mobile unit, you may need physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, lab technicians, pharmacists, community health workers, or other health professionals. Be sure to budget for related costs like taxes, health insurance, vacation time, and overtime.

Keep the wheels turning

Maintenance is a fact of life for mobile clinics. Whether the clinic is new or previously-owned, there will be mechanical and interior features that need repair. Some manufacturers offer warranties or service packages which can help keep these costs to a minimum for a few years. But regardless of the clinic’s age or manufacturer, it will need oil changes, tune-ups, new tires, and all the other regular maintenance that any vehicle requires.

You may also need to budget for storage of your mobile unit. And don’t forget about cleaning costs, including emptying the septic tank, if you have a toilet.

Tools of the trade

Consider what supplies you need to deliver the care. On The Family Van where community health workers provide preventive services such as blood pressure and blood sugar testing, our supply costs are relatively low. However, if you plan to dispense medications, operate a laboratory, or perform procedures, your costs may be higher. You will also want to budget for buying or printing health education materials and program information.

Like supplies, equipment expenses will depend on the services you plan to provide. Most clinics will need a few computers or tablet, as well as a way to connect to the internet such as a hotspot. Apart from the internet subscription, most equipment will not need to be purchased annually, but you will want to plan for future expenses to replace or expand your operations.

Fueling the organization

The clinic won’t run itself, and it is crucial to budget for management and administration. Be sure to consider the cost of human resources, fundraising, financial management, marketing, information technology support, legal, insurance and other services. You will want a way to monitor and evaluate your program, so plan for data costs for a secure patient tracking or medical record system, including the ability to bill for services if desired.

Key Points

  • Among mobile clinics registered for Mobile Health Map, the average annual operating costs are $275,000, but they vary widely based on services provided, the number of people served, type of vehicle, and distance traveled.
  • Personnel is often the largest and most important expense. Getting and keeping the right staff is essential to building trust and rapport.
  • Apart from staffing, be sure to budget for maintenance, repairs, supplies, equipment, and administration.

Another great resource for planning and budgeting mobile clinic costs is the Mobile Health Care Association.