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Phoenix VA Mobile Medical Unit Provides Tele-Mental Health, Tele-Primary Care and Other Services to Rural Veterans

The Phoenix Veterans Health Care System (PVAHCS) is not just providing health care from behind the walls of its main facility in downtown Phoenix. The PVAHCS has a mobile clinic – also known as a mobile medical unit (MMU) – that is being deployed to rural parts of Arizona to provide various health care services.

The MMU’s telehealth equipment makes it possible for patients across the state to be connected to clinicians and specialists at the Phoenix VA main facility even when hundreds of miles separate them from each other.  The MMU is wheelchair accessible, and is equipped with its own generator, so it can park anywhere.. It has an exam room with an exam table in the back of the vehicle, a lab drawing station, a restroom in the middle, and a larger pop-out area with three cubicles, where a Veteran can have a session with a mental health provider at the main facility, but only one Veteran at a time, to maintain privacy.

The MMU’s state-of-the-art equipment  includes a transportable examination station (TES), a portable suitcase on wheels that is equipped with a laptop, audio/video capability, a high definition total exam camera, an ear-nose-and throat camera, an e-stethoscope, and other tools. The TES makes it possible for a patient to receive a complete primary care visit with a clinician in Phoenix using. For example, a doctor hundreds of miles away can assess an eardrum to diagnose an ear infection and prescribe antibiotics. The TES makes this type of synchronous telehealth encounter possible.

The Phoenix VA's mobile medical unit.

In addition, the MMU is equipped with multiple handheld telehealth tablets, which make it possible for patients to have tele-mental health visits with a VA clinician in Phoenix. The clinician dials the tablet to connect with the Veteran in the MMU.

The Phoenix VA Health Care System is not letting distance get in the way of providing quality care to Veterans. Access to quality health care has been expanded by the forward thinking of VA leaders who have placed telehealth technology in a vehicle and sent it on the road.

Be on the lookout. You might recognize the Phoenix VA Mobile Clinic next time you are driving through a rural community. You can easily spot the clinic’s message: “Serving Those Who Have Served.”

About the Author

Valentin Rivish's picture

Valentin O. Rivish, DNP, RN, NE-BC has been a registered nurse since 2000, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Arizona State University. He continued his education and earned a Master of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Phoenix in 2007. In December 2016, he completed a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Chamberlain College of Nursing.

He has worked with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System for the last 16 years in multiple roles, including MICU nurse; Case Manager; Clinical Applications Coordinator, Facility Telehealth Coordinator/Nurse Manager; Chief Nurse, and currently as Telehealth Specialist and E-Consult Coordinator. Besides his full-time job at the VA, he teaches in the Nursing Division at Gateway Community College.

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