January 7, 2009 — When it comes to volunteers, patients, services and the financial value of its contribution, the University of Virginia Health System says it broke all previous records at the three-day 2008 Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise, Va.
"Over the past eight years, we've steadily increased our involvement in the RAM clinic. Thanks to strong support from University and Health System leadership, our volunteer contingent keeps growing, caring for more patients and providing more services," said Dr. Scott Syverud, U.Va.'s medical director for RAM and professor of emergency medicine at the U.Va. School of Medicine. "Our team holds nothing back at RAM."
The U.Va. Health System reported that it sponsored 217 volunteers at the 2008 clinic, a 31 percent increase from 2007 and the event's largest medical team. The volunteers, who made a 600-mile round trip to care for patients at the free, weekend-long health care clinic last summer, included staff physicians, nurses, social workers as well as pharmacy and lab employees, patient registration and general volunteers and members of the Thomas Jefferson EMS Task Force.
During RAM 2008, U.Va. provided medical care to 1,133 individual patients, a 10 percent year-over-year increase. Some patients were unable to receive all the care they needed in one day and returned the next morning, bringing the total number of patient visits provided by U.Va. volunteers to 1,846, up 15 percent from 2007.
Organizers measure how many medical services, or encounters, a patient receives. In 2008, U.Va. provided 6,195 patient encounters, a 10 percent jump from the previous year.
The total value of care provided by U.Va. at RAM 2008 was $1,048,942, a record amount. The sum includes volunteer time/salary expense ($143,854) and patient services ($905,088). Additionally, the Health System spent $28,985 on medical supplies and volunteer housing and travel.
Patients received a full range of medical services from U.Va. at RAM 2008, including ear, nose and throat, endocrinology, audiology, obstetrics/gynecology, nephrology, mammography, gastroenterology, HIV/infectious disease and primary care. For the first time, they had access to ultrasound exams, which were performed by two U.Va. sonographers. U.Va.'s patient care services also included a fully functional pharmacy, lab and emergency room. Its on-site medical records office registered attendees on the CareCast database to facilitate follow-up care by physicians at U.Va. and elsewhere.
Although not calculated in the value of care, U.Va. faculty and staff contributed countless hours last year preparing for the RAM event and handling follow-up activities after the clinic closed. Team leaders conducted regular planning meetings and made numerous trips to Wise during the months leading up to the clinic. After returning from Wise, U.Va. clinicians completed chart evaluations for all RAM patients, reviewed lab values and collaborated with case managers to ensure all necessary referrals had been made. In addition, U.Va. physicians routinely provided follow-up care to RAM patients at the Health System's other outreach clinics in southwest Virginia.
RAM in Wise is the nation's largest mobile free health care clinic. It is a collaborative event made possible by numerous civic groups, schools, churches, government organizations, businesses and individuals. Since its inception in 2000, the clinic has been organized and coordinated by The Health Wagon, a mobile health provider in Clinchco, Va.
The Wise clinic is managed by the Remote Area Medical Corps, a nonprofit, volunteer relief organization based in Knoxville, Tenn. According to the organization, 1,584 volunteers served 2,670 patients in Wise last year.
For U.Va., the Wise clinic is part of a major initiative to create accessible, sustainable health care programs for uninsured and medically underserved residents of far Southwest Virginia. Throughout the year, scores of U.Va. clinicians either travel to the region to conduct specialty care clinics for children and adults or provide consultations and training programs via the Health System's numerous telemedicine sites in the area.
The U.Va. Health System has participated in the RAM Clinic in Wise since 2001 and is now preparing for this year's event, which will be held July 24-26 at the Virginia-Kentucky Fairgrounds. During its 30 hours of operation, the clinic will provide dental, eye, hearing and medical care on a first-come, first-served basis to people who are uninsured, underinsured, unemployed or cannot afford to pay.
More information about the 2009 clinic is available from The Health Wagon (276-835-9474).