Mobilized health care: Putting pharmacy services on wheels


Pharmacies and clinics on wheels? That’s the premise behind the growing effort by retail pharmacy and clinic providers to expand their reach via specially equipped buses and other vehicles that provide on-the-spot, temporary access to needed health services in hundreds of communities nationwide.

The literal rollout of mobilized health services is a promising method some retailers are using to improve the quality of care in neighborhoods across the United States. Deploying buses and other vehicles staffed by pharmacists, nurses or other clinicians, pharmacy chains and pharmaceutical wholesalers are bringing mobile prescription delivery, health screening services and health education directly to Americans where they live, work and play.

Ongoing initiatives, such as the Walgreens/AARP/National Urban League Way to Well Tour, McKesson’s Better Health Tour and the Rite Aid Rite Track Diabetes Tour, have all highlighted the accessibility that mobile health vehicles can provide and the incredible number of people who can benefit from these health and screening centers on wheels. The Walgreens Way to Well Tour celebrated a major milestone last July when it was announced that the six-year tour had provided health services and screenings to over one million people in thousands of communities nationwide.

Walgreens spearheads its mobile wellness tour, using custom-equipped buses staffed by trained medical technicians and pharmacists who have administered more than $12 million worth of free health tests since 2006.

Rural areas could see the highest potential benefit, as under-served populations see their health care reinforced by mobile health services. Retail chains and wholesalers are leading the charge in bringing health screening services into rural communities. States like Nevada, North Dakota and Montana are seeing mobile treatment methods boost access to quality care.

Although pharmacy providers paved the way, other organizations and government entities have caught on. One prime example: every V.A. healthcare system in the country has some form of mobile care unit.

Mobile healthcare services are also a proven tactic pharmacy providers have used to deliver care during severe public health emergencies. During the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, CVS Health used two mobile pharmacy units to fill more than 20,000 prescriptions for 7,000 people who took shelter at the Astrodome in Houston.

“CVS/pharmacy utilizes mobile pharmacies for deployment in emergency situations to ensure continuity of pharmacy care when a pharmacy is temporarily shut down due to weather emergencies, natural disasters and similar events,” said CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis. “Over the years, they have been deployed to markets impacted by Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and most recently to Buffalo following heavy snowstorms in late 2014. They are important tools to help our pharmacy teams ensure that our communities have continued access to prescription medications.”

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