Spring 2021

Bringing the clinic to the patient

Health care hits the road with the U’s new mobile health initiative

A Community-University Health Care Center team set up a COVID-19 testing station in the community.

Roli Dwivedi, M.D., knows that when it comes to providing health care to her patients, one size does not fit all.

“So many people are talking about telehealth,” says Dwivedi, chief clinical officer at the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC) in south Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood. “And that’s great. We’re doing that. But our patients have so many barriers to participating that it’s just not the magical answer.”

Those barriers—no smartphone, not enough minutes to cover a call, needing an interpreter—keep patients from accessing telehealth; transportation issues and lack of trust can keep them from going to the clinic at all.

So Dwivedi, as part of a larger University of Minnesota mobile health initiative, brings caregivers to the patients. 

This initiative is led by Medical School assistant professor Jonathan Kirsch, M.D., and is fueled by a $1 million investment from the Otto Bremer Trust. It’s reaching out to underserved communities across the state, both urban and rural.

Mobile testing has proven particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the Phillips neighborhood’s poor, unhoused, and immigrant populations.

“We bring testing and care right to a building,” Dwivedi says, “and even have volunteers go to an apartment and escort folks down to our mobile unit.”

In addition to COVID-19 testing, the CUHCC team has provided wound care, dental education, and even voter registration services.

“We’re thinking beyond the four walls and meeting patients where they are,” says Sara Bolnick, CUHCC’s director of advancement.

The next step, Dwivedi says, is to move beyond one-off mobile care events and create a team that can be in the community providing chronic disease management and comprehensive primary care.

“We know that building trust is key to being successful with our patients,” Dwivedi says, “and building this long-term model that goes beyond our walls will help us address persistent health disparities.”