CMU takes home health care on the road

Grant-funded effort will bring medical teams to elderly residents in rural areas

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

Two Central Michigan University College of Medicine faculty members are creating a program to help rural elderly residents in Isabella and surrounding counties get preventive health care in their homes.

Drs. Jyotsna Pandey and Sethu Reddy will use a two-year $473,722 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to build a program that will enlist CMU students — medical, physical therapists and physician assistants — and a primary care clinician to make the medical visits.

The effort is officially called Rural Older Adult Mobile (ROAM) Care: Reaching the Unreachable.

"It's literally the doctor's office going to their homes." — Sethu Reddy, professor of internal medicine

In the beginning, the teams will travel to the homes of patients and serve them aboard the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions' Mobile Health Central vehicle.

“It’s literally the doctor’s office going to their homes,” said Reddy, a professor of internal medicine. “That fits the College of Medicine’s mission of serving the rural and underserved of our communities.”

“What we are trying to do is establish a reliable way to improve a person’s health so that their reliance on the emergency health care system is reduced,” said Pandey, a professor of pathology. “That saves money for the whole system.”

A routine emergency room visit costs about $3,000 by the time an assessment, examination and possibly X-rays are taken, Reddy said.

Four primary care visits to a person’s home will cost around $500 to $600, partly subsidized by Medicare and Medicaid, he said.

In addition to the savings for the patient and health care providers, there is the priceless benefit of CMU’s health professions students gaining hands-on experience in real-life situations, Pandey said.

“We are helping to build the workforce of primary care providers in rural areas,” she said.

“Many are thinking of telemedicine as a replacement of traditional medical visits in modern offices these days,” Reddy said, “but there is a lot to be said for going where the patients are and looking at the social determinants of health: their home environment, what their safety net is and how they are living day to day.

“Those are important.”

The program is expected to begin this fall.

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