A Transit Connect donated by Ford Motor Company “will serve as a medical office on wheels” in a University of Kansas pilot program designed to bring healthcare to rural areas.
Ford donated the WellCar for one year with the hopes it would lower the incidence of “bounce back” patients, who return to the hospital due to complications from an earlier procedure. In addition, people in rural areas may travel for hours to seek a doctor or health care facility.
The WellCar Transit Connect allows a nurse practitioner to travel to as many as six patients a day, carry necessary medical equipment and communicate information wirelessly for treatment.
“Unlike current medical vehicles, whose capabilities are generally dedicated to simple tasks such as immunizations and health awareness programs, the WellCar model will enable nurse practitioners to provide a broad array of comprehensive, prevention-based patient care services,” says Gregory Thomas, design professor and director, University of Kansas Center for Design Research, which is part of the KU School of Architecture, Design & Planning. “That is how this concept goes so much further for patient care, and is what makes it unique.”
A functional prototype vehicle, which will serve as a proof of concept and research tool to develop the WellCar program, is projected to be on the road early in 2015.
The WellCar Transit Connect will be equipped with several medical devices. The van will be set up to transfer medical data securely through its own Wi-Fi hotspot to a medical center for immediate evaluation. A nurse practitioner can then administer treatment, including prescribed medications, if needed.
Students in the university’s advanced industrial design and engineering studio will create the specifications for the installation of medical equipment, then integrate the equipment and connectivity into the WellCar Transit Connect. Upfitting will be completed by Kranz Truck Equipment in Kansas City, Mo.
“This is a great opportunity for students to work on a real-world project,” Thomas says. “They will conceptualize it, plan it and then figure out how to incorporate and design technologies into the WellCar.”
The University of Kansas says it intends to deploy as many as four WellCar Transit Connect vans to serve western Kansas. The school has received inquiries about extending the program to Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas as well.