In 1968, Dr. Herman (Arnold) Meyersburg and Dr. George Cohen were colleagues at Hillcrest Pediatric Center in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Meyersburg was a staff psychiatrist and Dr. Cohen was an attending pediatrician. Committed to the community, they volunteered their time tutoring poor children. Their parents often held jobs that did not offer health insurance, so for these families, access to healthcare just seemed out of reach. Concerned about the lack of healthcare services available to these families, the two doctors invited medical colleagues and community activists to a meeting at Dr. Meyersburg’s house to address the problem. From that meeting, MobileMed was born.
It was Dr. Meyersburg’s dream to have a mobile medical clinic but obtaining a vehicle was initially difficult. The complementary idea was for MobileMed “to go to places where local stakeholders would meet us halfway” by providing space and someone to function as the clinic registrar, thus forming collaborative partnerships with the local community. Today’s MobileMed continues to leverage this principle – both with mobile medical vans (yes, we obtained them in the past 15 years) and with our fixed sites, our clinic network is accessible to those in need and our partners enhance our outreach capacity for hard-to-reach populations.
Some 45 years later, MobileMed’s vision remains incredibly relevant, delivering accessible primary healthcare for low-income residents who might otherwise go without timely care. According to Dr. Cohen (who is still an active supporter of MobileMed), today’s MobileMed faces the same challenges it has always faced: having enough resources, be it volunteers or funding, to staff and support the general operations of the clinics. Recent years have brought new challenges and opportunities: Montgomery County’s changing demographics with most growth from immigrants, the increasing complexity of primary care, and the rising cost of treatments and medications. MobileMed’s service delivery plan and organizational competencies continue to reflect and respond to these issues.
In August, 2015, MobileMed was awarded a multi-year federal grant, designating us as an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center). As the first FQHC based entirely in Montgomery County, we will be able to greatly expand our community impact. We look forward to the opportunity to serve more individuals in need; stimulate program development and enhance services; and extend outreach to underserved populations.
With the help of its many supporters and friends, MobileMed continues to make high quality, comprehensive, cultural competent and affordable healthcare available to the low-income residents of Montgomery County.
THE PATIENTS WE SERVE
Our patient population faces enormous barriers to healthcare access: finances and insurance coverage, language, educational level, health literacy, transportation, cultural constraints and differences, and general life stresses. Even with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), newly covered individuals face big access challenges and many people remain ineligible. MobileMed has always been passionate about increasing access to healthcare by trying to mitigate those barriers.
MobileMed patients are among the most vulnerable in Montgomery County. They are under 250% of the federal poverty level, come from over 100 countries, and speak 25 languages. Our patient population is predominantly minority (43% Hispanic, 31% Black or African American, 13% Asian).
Key to MobileMed’s service delivery model are practices that promote culturally sensitive and language-appropriate care for all who access our healthcare. Within our primary care program, we conduct language-specific clinics in Farsi, French and Korean, plus Spanish at most locations. We have made a concerted effort to have our staff mirror the evolving, multi-cultural make-up of the community, and most of our basic forms and patient education materials have been translated into several target languages.
While individuals often initially come to MobileMed with an acute illness, we offer them a medical home. A disproportionate number of our patients suffer from multiple chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and asthma. For these individuals, helping them monitor and proactively manage their chronic conditions is critical. Regular primary and preventive care can prevent or slow progression of chronic conditions and lead to early diagnosis of serious issues when they are more treatable, improving health outcomes and reducing inappropriate use of hospital emergency rooms.