It is often difficult to recognize the multitude of barriers that prevent access to healthcare. It is commonly agreed upon that financial burdens and lack of insurance pose great obstacles. I personally have grown up neglecting to look outside of the lens of my own privilege, but have just started to delve into some of these notions of barriers. Growing up in a small town with medical facilities on every corner, a barrier that never occurred to me was the challenges of transportation. Now living in a city, especially with the topography of Pittsburgh, it is easier to recognize the burden of transportation.
I think it’s important to understand the needs of the population I serve, before I can properly try to meet them. Serving as a Patient Navigator at Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center has opened my eyes to some of these needs. Transportation barriers lead to missed appointments, delayed care, receiving insufficient care at more proximal clinics, or lack of care all together. These consequences result in poor control of chronic illnesses and unmet health care needs.
In order to combat this barrier, Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center developed a Medical Mobile unit. The medical mobile unit, or MMU, works to provide primary care to those who have difficulty coming to the clinic. The staff on the MMU typically includes a physician or nurse practitioner, a medical assistant, care management, and an Americorps member. The Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center MMU goes to several locations in Pittsburgh throughout the week in order to ensure that patients are able to receive the care that they need while easing the burden of transportation difficulties.
During the mere month that I have served at Pittsburgh Mercy, I have received numerous phone calls with concerns over the bus systems, car issues, or time constraints with getting to their appointment at Pittsburgh Mercy's clinic on the south side. When advertising the MMU, more patients are being scheduled on the Mobile unit and it is clear more of these barriers to healthcare are being mitigated.
This post was written by NPHC member Cassen Singer.
Cassen serves at Pittsburgh Mercy Health System as a Patient Navigator.