Converting mobile care to meet coronavirus needs
Widespread testing is essential to fighting the coronavirus, as without this key public health tool, it’s nearly impossible to determine how far the virus has spread, identify the sick and determine who may need to isolate. As states begin reopening, adequate testing becomes even more critical—particularly in underserved communities, which have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
Access to testing has been a barrier contributing to the unequal burden of COVID-19 on people of color and other underserved populations as drive-up testing is not always an option, and testing sites can be in locations that are not easy to get to.
In Oklahoma in late April, as some parts of the state began allowing businesses to reopen, health officials, along with state and community leaders, recognized the threat of COVID-19 was not over. While the state’s total number of cases was low, more testing was needed, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health set a goal of testing 90,000 people during the month of May. The state could not reach this goal alone—nor could it count on reaching those most at risk for becoming sick without a novel solution.
Oklahoma’s Caring Vans rolled into action.
Supported through a public-private partnership between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK), the Oklahoma Caring Foundation* and the state Department of Health, the Oklahoma Caring Vans Program (Caring Vans) deployed to underserved communities throughout Oklahoma City and Tulsa—two of the state’s hot spots—to help increase access to COVID-19 testing.
Typically, the Caring Vans, one of the foundation’s signature programs, provide residents with access to preventative health services such as immunizations. But as the coronavirus outbreak continues, more than half of the fleet was repurposed to provide transportation and administrative support for COVID-19 testing at 14 clinics during the month of May.
“By meeting Oklahomans where they are, we are able to eliminate barriers to testing such as cost, transportation and limited clinic hours,” said Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D., BCBSOK President and chairman of the Oklahoma Caring Foundation. “This partnership represents our collective desire to slow the spread of this virus and keep our communities healthy.”
Deploying the Caring Vans into these communities and encouraging everyone to get a test, not just those who are symptomatic, allows for improved contact tracing and isolation of those who may be contagious, with the goal of slowing the spread of the virus.
With the help of the Caring Vans, the state surpassed its goal, conducting more than 113,000 tests during the month of May.
In addition to the partnership, BCBSOK also has invested $1 million in statewide community organizations offering support services for COVID-19.
“We are in unprecedented times, and our commitment to not only our members, but to the communities where we live and work is steadfast,” added Cunningham.
* The Oklahoma Caring Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization funded in-kind and administered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma,