THE BLOG
02/19/2013 02:43 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2013

Mayors Challenge Finalist: Springfield (Video, Vote)

Idea Summary: Springfield will enable universal access to primary care for all at a lower overall cost. Click here to vote for this idea.

Have you ever been in a situation where you or a family member gets sick or hurt and urgent care and doctors' offices are closed? When your only option is to leave your home in an ambulance or spend several hours going to an emergency room, it's often easy to feel helpless.

You are not alone. In some states more than 40% of visits to an emergency room are for injuries or illness that could have been treated by a regular doctor. In cities across our nation costs associated with non-emergency ambulance rides and visits to an emergency room have skyrocketed to more than $4 billion dollars a year. This comes with a real cost to taxpayers, who fund fire and ambulance services and pay the bill for Medicaid and Medicare patients, and to insured patients who see their rates increase when the uninsured can't pay. Non-emergency visits are stressing city budgets, ER staffs and community members nationwide.

While this problem may seem insurmountable, in Springfield, Oregon we have an idea that can start to solve this challenge - Mobile Healthcare. Mobile Healthcare is a new way for any person to get the right care at the right time before there is an emergency, for less cost than ever before; available around the clock, even after doctors' offices, clinics and urgent care facilities are closed. Think of it as a 21st century house call, combining at your door service with the latest telemedicine technology - for about half the cost of a trip to the ER.

It starts with a call to a nurse trained to give immediate access to the right information to solve the problem. The nurse uses the latest computer technology to assess the situation. Depending on what is needed, the nurse gives self-help advice and also may send a Mobile Primary Care Vehicle to provide care. Primary care personnel are fully equipped and trained and are directly connected to a doctor through telemedicine.

A real-time video, vital signs, and illness or injury assessment of the patient is sent to the doctor by broadband cellular or satellite. The doctor provides follow-up care instructions and the patient is treated and released or transported for further care if needed. Patients who might have other needs such as diet, medication, and mental health or substance abuse issues are referred to appropriate social services agencies for follow up.

Since mobile care costs less than traditional emergency medical services and emergency rooms, access is universally available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. The triple aim of healthcare reform: better care, better health, and lower cost are met in a new, more efficient way.

This isn't the first time Springfield has developed an innovative healthcare tool. Several years ago we implemented FireMed, a voluntary ambulance membership plan whose members pay an annual fee to receive emergency ambulance service for all members of their household with no out-of-pocket costs. Our program now includes more than 80 FireMed plans throughout Oregon and California. We also started the national RapidZap project and were the first city to put automated external defibrillators (AED) on all fire trucks to improve survival of cardiac arrest patients. And, since we are home to the largest health care cluster between Portland and San Francisco, we have a stake in improving health care delivery. My hope is that someday, residents in cities across the country will be able to access Mobile HealthCare - getting the right care at the right time.

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This post is an entry in the Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection, a partnership between The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Philanthropies that allows readers to vote on their favorite idea among the 20 Mayors Challenge finalists. The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. To view the ideas from the 20 finalists, click the grid below -- and then vote for your favorite here! And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #MayorsChallenge.

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