By Dr. Giavonne Rondo and Dr. Kwane Watson
The following op-ed was written by Dr. Giavonne Rondo, who is the founder and owner of GobileMD; and Dr. Kwane Watson, who is the founder and CEO of Kare Mobile, Inc.
As doctors, our number one priority is the health and well-being of our patients.
Unfortunately, across the Commonwealth, too many of our fellow Kentuckians are facing issues obtaining the high-quality care they so desperately need and deserve, putting their health at greater risk. The two main contributors: availability and access.
Right now, Kentucky is ranked 40 out of 50 states in the number of physicians per 100,000 population. This primary care shortfall is impacting 94 percent of Kentucky counties, with little more than 2,800 physicians practicing statewide.
In addition, access to health care professionals and facilities remains a top concern. Kentucky is among the top 10 most rural states, and while the rolling hills and mountains provide unparalleled beauty and privacy, our geography forces many rural Kentuckians to travel long distances to see a doctor or go to the emergency room.
However, access doesn’t just impact rural communities, it also affects our cities, too. A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found that nearly one in five Americans (18%) living in urban areas responded that “access to a good doctor and hospital” is an ongoing issue. This number is slightly lower than rural Americans (23%) but double the rate for suburbanites (9%).
The troubling trends and statistics have real world consequences. The Commonwealth ranks among the worst when it comes to obesity, diabetes, cancer-related deaths, heart disease-related deaths, periodontal disease and tooth decay, mental and physical distress and premature deaths from substance use. Worse still, we have the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of smoking and physical inactivity in the country, according to 2021 United Health Foundation rankings.
We believe it is imperative that we face these challenges head-on. We believe mobile health care is key to that effort.
In that spirit, GobileMD and Kare Mobile, Inc. were born.
Fast forward to today, and we are crisscrossing the state every day, showing up in parking lots, even people’s homes no less, to serve our patients. This allows us to see them where they live and how they live. As a result, we’ve been able to better connect and understand our patients on a much deeper level. Put simply: we’ve become their neighbors and trusted members of their communities.
But we can’t do this lifesaving work alone. We need the help of trusted community partners who understand the importance and critical need for mobile health care. Fortunately, many people and organizations have stepped up, including like-minded physicians, Procter & Gamble, Ford, XLerateHealth, Verizon, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center and Republic Bank, just to name a few. With their support, we’ve been able to make a successful transition.
Think the change to mobile health care is difficult? Think again.
Average startup costs range between $150,000 to $200,000, which is far less than a fixed physician location. Thanks to Republic Bank’s Community Loan Fund, we were able to secure the necessary financing to get the ‘wheels turning’ and are now providing additional services and greater care to individuals and families. Further, joining forces with Ford, Kare Mobile, Inc. was able to expand access and offer preventive dental services to those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to see a dentist, while GobileMD’s partnership with the Park DuValle Community Health Center has provided more opportunities to address the numerous social determinants of health like nutrition and mental health.
The most rewarding aspect, through it all, has been witnessing even more patients feeling empowered to take greater responsibility and control of their health.
Our results are not out of the ordinary. Several studies, including a 2017 study for the International Journal for Equity and Health, cited mobile health care as helping to improve social determinants of health and overall health outcomes. Moreover, Mobile Health Map reports for every $1 invested in mobile health care, $12 are saved and that there are 600 fewer emergency room visits every year, translating to an average savings of one-fifth of the cost of care. Finally, the same study concluded that each health clinic saved 65 “quality adjusted life years” annually.
In America, there are currently 2,000 mobile health clinics, serving 7,000,000 at-risk individuals 24/7/365. The National Library on Medicine states that there are only 11 operating in Kentucky.
As the owners and operators of two such facilities, we encourage more physicians to join us in the fight to improve access and the availability of health care by first talking with your patients and community and business partners.
It’s time to meet the moment by meeting people where they live and work – because together, we can bring care, convenience and community to all Kentuckians.