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Improving Access to Care by Providing ‘Wheels to Wellness’

Wheels to Wellness Partnership

Pictured above is Margaret Hathaway, a patient at MedStar St. Mary’s Medical Center Wheels to Wellness program.

“How will I get there?” 

For 85-year-old Margaret Hathaway, this was her top concern every time her doctor’s office called to remind her about an upcoming appointment. 

Her daughter works full time and can’t always get the day off to take her. Margaret’s ex-husband gives her a ride occasionally, but isn’t readily available. And since she’s not from the area, Margaret has no extended family nearby to help out. 

But now she’s got Dave. 

Dave is a driver with Wheels to Wellness, a program that helps patients secure reliable transportation to and from medical appointments at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. 

The program is a partnership between the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, The Arc of Southern Maryland, The Center for Life Enrichment and two area hospitals, including MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. 

Wheels to Wellness fills a great need in rural areas of Southern Maryland, where access to public transportation can prove quite difficult. 

Bus schedules and availability are sporadic, often causing patients to miss an entire day of work in order to make a scheduled medical appointment. In many cases, patients will simply skip the appointment. 

“Consistent and reliable transportation helps patients keep their appointments, which helps keep them healthy,” says Brenda Wolcott, operations specialist, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. 

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4265215/

Prior to a patient’s appointment, a MedStar associate requests a ride for the patient online through Roundtrip, an online ride scheduling service. The Arc of Southern Maryland or The Center for Life Enrichment fulfills the request and schedules the pickup. Both organizations have vans that would otherwise go unused during most of the workday. The partnership also helps those drivers pick up extra work hours. 

In the first 10 months of its partnership with Wheels to Wellness, MedStar provided nearly 1,500 trips for patients. 

For patients like Margaret Hathaway, every trip is a “blessing.” 

“For those of us who don’t have a lot of help or don’t have the money for cabs, this is just a wonderful service,” she says. “Now I don’t have to fish around to find a ride. I know Dave will be here to get me to my appointments, no matter what.”

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