The scope and impact of mobile health clinics in the United States: a literature review
As the U.S. healthcare system transforms its care delivery model to increase healthcare accessibility and improve health outcomes, it is undergoing changes in the context of ever-increasing chronic disease burdens and healthcare costs. Many illnesses disproportionately affect certain populations, due to disparities in healthcare access and social determinants of health. These disparities represent a key area to target in order to better our nation’s overall health and decrease healthcare expenditures. It is thus imperative for policymakers and health professionals to develop innovative interventions that sustainably manage chronic diseases, promote preventative health, and improve outcomes among communities disenfranchised from traditional healthcare as well as among the general population.
This article examines the available literature on Mobile Health Clinics (MHCs) and the role that they currently play in the U.S. healthcare system. Based on a search in the PubMed database and data from the online collaborative research network of mobile clinics MobileHealthMap.org, the authors evaluated 51 articles with evidence on the strengths and weaknesses of the mobile health sector in the United States. Current literature supports that MHCs are successful in reaching vulnerable populations, by delivering services directly at the curbside in communities of need and flexibly adapting their services based on the changing needs of the target community. As a link between clinical and community settings, MHCs address both medical and social determinants of health, tackling health issues on a community-wide level. Furthermore, evidence suggest that MHCs produce significant cost savings and represent a cost-effective care delivery model that improves health outcomes in underserved groups. Even though MHCs can fulfill many goals and mandates in alignment with our national priorities and have the potential to help combat some of the largest healthcare challenges of this era, there are limitations and challenges to this healthcare delivery model that must be addressed and overcome before they can be more broadly integrated into our healthcare system.