It takes a village: How the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile makes healthcare more accessible to children

“When it comes to health care, it’s no surprise there are underserved children across the country who fall through the cracks. Perhaps mom and dad lack health insurance or don’t know where to turn for immunizations or preventive check-ups. Or maybe a family struggles to find reliable transportation.”

Those were the opening sentences to an Input Fort Wayne article in June of 2018, when Parkview Health, in partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Indiana, introduced the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile to northeast Indiana. 

The Ronald McDonald Care MobileFive years later, the Care Mobile is still on the road and has touched the lives of thousands of children of all ages and backgrounds. The concept is a doctor’s office on wheels, bringing Parkview Physicians Group (PPG) – Pediatrics providers directly to communities to grant convenient access to health services for children 0 – 18 years old. The state-of-the-art, 40-foot bus is complete with two patient exam rooms, a laboratory and a patient education center. 

Angela Troyer, a nurse practitioner with PPG – Pediatrics, wasn’t on the bus five years ago, but she was thrilled at the opportunity to serve as the Care Mobile’s provider starting last summer. Along with her medical assistant, Chloe Garza, Troyer currently handles all clinical care provided on the bus, which includes immunizations, wellness visits, screenings (hearing, vision and developmental), point-of-care testing (lead, hemoglobin and urine), fluoride treatments, and childhood health and safety education.

While Troyer is a member of PPG – Pediatrics, the Care Mobile and its co-workers are part of the Parkview Community Nursing team. This is a natural alignment and ties into Parkview’s Community Health Improvement efforts. But Troyer explains there really are no silos when it comes to providing care like this.

“It takes a village to make this work,” she says. 

The Care Mobile travels all over the region, including locations in Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Wabash and Whitley counties. 

Troyer and Care Mobile Coordinator Sheila Johnson regularly reach out to area organizations, business owners, school administrators and nurses, and other key contacts within different communities to spread the word about their services. 

They are relentlessly stoking the embers of an earned trust and rapport with groups where that doesn’t necessarily come easily. For example, it's not uncommon for the team to provide care for migrant families and asylum seekers. 

“I find that migrant parents are very proactive in getting medical care for their children,” Troyer says. “But there is an inherent skepticism with some populations and often, I think that comes with the language barrier.”

The mobile team has access to tablets with translation services, and some sites provide interpreters. 

“When we’re able to break down those communication barriers, it makes such a big difference,” Troyer says.  

Inside the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.The Care Mobile won’t turn away any pediatric patient. There is no cost for services for children without health insurance, and they also accept Medicaid or private insurance just like other doctor’s offices.

“There are a lot of scenarios that contribute to kids falling through the cracks with healthcare,” Troyer says. “Maybe a parent who carried the insurance lost their job and they’re in a window where they don’t have coverage. Or they just got here and they’re getting their footing.”

Ultimately, the success of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile rests in the adoption of, and trust in their services. 

“I want to get the word out,” Troyer says. “I am here to help. I believe in this program, and I know we can do a lot more. When I think about what we’ve already accomplished for some of our migrant community members and asylum seekers, it gives me hope for the impact something like this can have for people who are trying to find a long-term solution. It's rewarding being able to provide access until families can find another way to get regular care.”

Inside the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
Walk-ins are welcome on the Care Mobile, but parents can also schedule an appointment by calling 1-877-PPG-TODAY (774-8632). You can find the current schedule here or request the Care Mobile at a location by filling out this form. If you have a suggestion for a location where the bus could be of service, or know a group that might benefit from learning more about the program, please call Sheila Johnson at 260-437-0087.

To learn more about the Care Mobile, check out a full day-in-the-life with Angie and the team on Parkview’s website.

This article was created in partnership with Parkview Health.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.