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Friday, May 6, 2016

Filling health care gaps in rural Nebraska

Monday, May 9, 2011

When seniors in rural Nebraska can't make it to larger cities to see a geriatric specialist, the University of Nebraska Medical Center is finding a way to take the specialty care to them with a new state of the art mobile medical facility resulting from a local and federal partnership.

This is an important and needed service because Nebraska's population is aging. In 2000, the percentage of Nebraskans who were 65 or older made up 13 percent of the population. Projections call for this number to increase to 21 percent of the population by 2030.

As we age, we need more regular access to medical providers, especially those who specialize in geriatrics.

That's difficult to come by in rural areas of the state, which often have trouble recruiting general practitioners, let alone specialists.

Clinic on Wheels

If the patients can't go to UNMC, UNMC can now go to them using a new, specially equipped medical clinic on wheels.

UNMC's mobile clinic is a very impressive 38-foot-long RV equipped with exam rooms, labs and tele‑health capabilities, staffed by geriatric nurse practitioners, which are in short supply. Claudia Chaperon, the geriatric nurse practitioner who will oversee the mobile clinic, said the goal is to help older Nebraskans stay independent and keep them out of nursing homes.

Geriatric assessments can include laboratory and other diagnostic screening tests to assess a patient's physical, mental and social condition. The focus includes depression and memory, hearing and vision problems. Memory loss is particularly common, resulting in such problems as patients forgetting to take medication.

By making these screening and preventive services available to seniors, we hope it will reduce the need for more serious medical attention down the road.

Initial Service Area

The mobile clinic will have a route that takes it from Norfolk to Neligh to Red Cloud where it will provide its health screenings and specialized services for older Nebraskans. At first, the clinic will operate six days a month. Ultimately, it will offer its services eight days a month. For the future, they hope to expand to other areas of the state.

To make this mobile clinic even better, it will be used as a training tool for students enrolled in the College of Nursing's geriatric nurse practitioner program that will hopefully help get more students to specialize in geriatric services and show them the value of serving rural communities.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

This is the type of partnership between the federal government, UNMC and the people of Nebraska that will end up saving lives and saving money.

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