In the past, staff members captured patient data manually, but now they write directly to the customer relationship management system.
“Saves a lot of time,” says Shapiro. “That is the time we can use to see more patients.”
The shift to digital processes also created new opportunities, he says, making it easier to share information with patients and connect them to follow-up care and additional services.
The 5-inch Toughbook devices work well for the clinic, in part because they are designed to be durable in the field and to support secure HIPAA-compliant connectivity. Panasonic provided the devices and the AltaMed team handled the applications and software integration.
“With these tools, we are expanding the message of ‘you are important’,” says Shapiro. “When patients are screened and it’s easier and faster, we are creating that bridge to healing.”
‘Huge disparities’ persist, but mobile clinics help
One reason mobile clinics are effective is that they allow providers to establish trust within communities, according to Williams, who oversees Harvard’s The Family Van, and Mary Kathryn Fallon, assistant director of finance and operations.
“We can provide education, support, without judgment and just listen to people to help them take control of their health, that’s the rewarding part,” says Fallon.
Patients may not bring up depression or substance abuse to a doctor they’ve never met before, but they could bring those issues up to the community health worker they’ve seen in the van year after year, Williams says.
With nearly three decades of service, The Family Van is a family-friendly sight in the neighborhoods it serves. “Even in resource-rich places like Boston, we see huge disparities in health outcomes and life expectancy, just within a mile or two,” Williams says.
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Ninety percent of The Family Van’s patients are people of color, and nearly all have at least one chronic illness. That’s one reason the clinic emphasizes screening and prevention, along with vision care, family planning, and other services. A simplified EHR enables staff to store and track patient data through a secure cloud-based platform.
In addition to providing direct care, the team uses the van’s access point and laptops to address another need: helping patients navigate online systems to access services, including COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. .
“A lot of things have moved online, especially with COVID,” Williams says. “People are really struggling with, ‘How do I navigate this world when all I have is a flip phone and there’s no Wi-Fi?’ We do a lot of that. ”