Ford Motor Company has donated a Transit Connect van to the University of Kansas for one year to serve as the school’s first WellCar.
A new initiative that aims to bring medical care to the doors of rural patients, WellCar will serve as a medical office on wheels. According to the university, the need for such a service is acute, as people in rural areas must travel for hours to see a doctor or a health care facility. The problem is exacerbated for those who aren’t in need of the emergency services of an ambulance yet depend on others for transportation, which can add anxiety to their illness. Enter WellCar, which could lower the rate of “bounce back” patients who return to the hospital due to complications from earlier procedures.
The WellCar Transit Connect will enable a nurse practitioner to travel to as many as six patients a day, carry necessary medical equipment, and communicate information wirelessly for treatment. And the Transit Connect has just the features the school was looking for in a vehicle.
“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,” said 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.”
The WellCar Transit Connect will be equipped with several medical devices while also being capable of transferring 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, as necessary.
Specifications for installing the medical equipment and connectivity as well as plans for integrating it into the vehicle are being created by students in the university’s advanced industrial design and engineering studio, while Kranz Truck Equipment will take care of upfitting. A functional prototype vehicle, which will also serve as a proof of concept and research tool to develop the WellCar program, is projected to be on the road in early 2015.
The University of Kansas has plans to deploy as many as four WellCar Transit Connect vans to serve western Kansas, with the school already having received inquiries about extending the program to Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.