The future of health care is here today for residents of rural Chambers County. A multidisciplinary program at Auburn University—and an innovative virtual care station offered by OnMed—are providing better access to quality health care for a community in need.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn Outreach and the Auburn colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing and Human Sciences have teamed up with leaders from the City of LaFayette and Chambers County to provide the facility. Through the OnMed Care Station—one of only four of its kind in the U.S.—residents can experience affordable, private and real-time visits with Alabama-licensed health care professionals in a virtual setting, and for the first 60 days, they can use the facility at no charge.
“The installation of an OnMed Care Station signals a new day in health care for our community,” said Rachel Snoddy, Alabama Extension coordinator for Chambers County. “Patients can expect quality care without the long waits at a doctor’s office, and prescriptions will be sent immediately to their pharmacy. The improved access will change the health of our citizens for the better.”
LaFayette currently has no urgent care facility, and the nearest hospital is a 30-minute drive. The OnMed Care Station—located in the Chambers County Community Health and Wellness Center—is part of Auburn’s Rural Health Initiative. The center is now open to the public and available to community members for convenient access to affordable primary care, including diagnosis, referrals, prescription and treatment options.
“Our collaborative team is thrilled with the opportunity to support the health of the Chambers County community based on the feedback we have received directly from the community members themselves,” said Hollie Cost, assistant vice president of University Outreach and Public Service. “Residents throughout the area have indicated a need for greater access to health care, as well as health and wellness programming and information during extended hours.
“This new center is positioned to honor those needs and wishes, with additional services being added as our faculty and student engagement expands.”
The new center will provide Auburn students and faculty from different disciplines the opportunity to support community members’ overall well-being. Nursing students will support diabetes management and asthma education; pharmacy students will provide medication management education; and students in human sciences will have the opportunity to develop and implement community-based nutrition education programs.
Linda Gibson-Young, professor in Auburn’s College of Nursing, said the new health care center and residents will benefit from the synergy among the Auburn units involved.
“This site is a connector between Auburn University and the community to engage all in health and wellness conversations,” she said. “Nursing students will benefit by collaborating with the other disciplines in a rural environment.”
“Establishing good community health and well-being requires a team effort,” said Timothy Moore, interim dean of the Harrison College of Pharmacy. “The Harrison College of Pharmacy is excited to participate in this effort for the people of Chambers County and to involve our future pharmacists as vital members of this multidisciplinary team.”
The project is supported through in-kind and financial contributions by all key partners, as well as corporate grants. Partners and funders include the City of LaFayette, Auburn University, Alabama Extension, Chambers County, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alfa Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.
“We’re bringing access to health care in a rural environment with modern technology, when you need it, at your convenience, in an area without easy access to an urgent care or hospital. This couldn’t have happened without our partners, both locally and at Auburn University,” said Chief Jim Doody, City of LaFayette Fire and EMS.
The care station employed by Auburn’s Rural Health Initiative was developed by Florida-based OnMed to make affordable health care accessible to all. The OnMed care stations provide 85% of the services received in a traditional primary care visit, using best-in-class devices to capture patient vitals. Clinicians are available for extended hours. Patient visits are private, safe and secure, and the care station is automatically cleaned and sanitized for the next patient.
“Our partnership with Auburn University, the City of LaFayette and the Chambers County Commission is a perfect reflection of our mission to provide access to quality affordable health care for all,” said OnMed CEO Tom Vanderheyden. “We are extremely proud of our involvement in this innovative Rural Health project, and most importantly, serving the people of this community.”
An open house for the Community Health and Wellness Center is planned for April 21.