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Doctor’s office on wheels offers convenient care

The latest addition to Kaiser Permanente’s fleet of mobile health vehicles brings high-quality care to members in far-flung areas of Northern California. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente Nurse Department Manager Benny Ramirez helps Kaiser Permanente member Ron Hill down the steps of the new mobile health vehicle in Rio Vista.

Kaiser Permanente recently activated its third mobile health vehicle in Northern California for members in the Solano County community of Rio Vista, home to a growing elderly population.

“I think it’s a great idea, particularly for my wife who doesn’t like to drive on the freeway,” said Ron Hill, who lives in a nearby retirement community and who saw a physician in the mobile health vehicle on its first day of operation. “This is really convenient. It’s 5 minutes from my house. You don’t have to spend half the day going back and forth.”

Appointments for basic primary care services are available in the vehicle 2 times a week and will eliminate a long drive to the nearest Kaiser Permanente medical offices in Antioch, Vacaville, or Fairfield, all of which are at least 20 miles away.

The new 40-foot-long medical office on wheels has 2 patient exam rooms, member electronic health record access, a waiting area, and restroom. It will be staffed by 1 physician and 2 licensed vocational nurses Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 650 St. Francis Way.

Members can see a doctor, as well as get immunizations, blood sugar and blood pressure checks, and prescriptions for mail order or pharmacy pickup.

“Right now we’re focusing on appointments for people who have not seen their doctor in a while, either because of COVID-19 or because they are far away from their doctors,” said Francisco Dorado, MD, the managing physician at the Rio Vista site. “There’s a large senior community here, so transportation tends to be a bit more complicated as a result. And the majority of people who live here are Kaiser Permanente members.”

Dr. Dorado said the vehicle can accommodate 13 to 15 patients for care twice a week.

3 vehicles with lots of possibilities

Since 2010, Kaiser Permanente has operated a mobile health clinic that visits large employer campuses in the south Bay Area, and it more recently deployed a new vehicle at the South Sacramento Medical Center campus.

That vehicle was used in the last year to provide well baby checks and immunizations. Soon it will shift to member outreach and care at pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the Sacramento Valley. Later it will be deployed more permanently at the Kaiser Permanente Elk Grove Promenade Medical Offices and make trips to the community of Ione in Amador County to serve members who live far from the nearest medical offices.

Kaiser Permanente member Ron Hill, left, talks to Kaiser Permanente physician Matthew Rosenberg, MD, during an appointment in the new mobile health vehicle stationed in Rio Vista.

Philip Chuang, senior vice president of Clinical Services for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, said all 3 vehicles can be used in a variety of scenarios, including communal living settings such as senior care facilities. They also can be used during disasters, such as wildfires, when medical facilities are closed, or the electricity is out.

“This kind of use is an opportunity to catch up members with their care,” said Chuang. “It could be a case of a doctor saying to a patient, ‘You were due for a lab test 6 months ago, can we take care of that right now?’”

In Rio Vista on its first day in operation, a constant stream of Kaiser Permanente members stopped to ask about appointments.

“I saw it when I was driving by,” said Sandy Price, who also lives in a nearby retirement community. “My first impression is it’s wonderful. A lot of people around here don’t have transportation, so this might be the answer.”



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Amador County has a definite need of medical access. Most residents have to drive 30 min for the nearest facility and 45min-1 hour for nearest KP clinic! I am a KP employee and member and drive 1 hour for all routine care.

  2. This is the first time I heard about the mobile vehicles. What a wonderful idea, especially for those who cannot drive or who no longer drive and for those who are too frail to travel long distances to get medical help. Hopefully, more units will be added in the future. A mobile medical unit like this would be a godsend to people who are more or less isolated in small mountain communities 35 to 50 miles away from medical offices.

  3. What a wonderful idea! A blessing for many that would otherwise not
    be able to get care often enough. Would love to see more of them as
    I’m sure the need is great. God bless.
    Janet Simon

  4. So nice to see we’ve come full circle back to house calls. I and some of my KP colleagues used to make occasional house calls, often on on our own time, back in the 90’s. The need for it has never gone away.

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