McLaren Northern Michigan creates mobile cardiac testing lab in semi truck to visit patients in need. Why? Northern Michigan is a big place and many people must travel far to reach a major hospital, a situation made more challenging when people are compromised by health issues or when the roads are coated with snow and ice. All of that factored into McLaren Northern Michigan’s decision to convert a semi-truck into a mobile cardiac testing laboratory and put it on the road. “We’re taking cardiac testing to the communities where patients live instead of making them travel long distances to a fixed site,” says Marla Clark, senior director of McLaren’s Heart and Vascular Program. Elk Rapids is next on the site plan and other sites are being evaluated.
Named the Noninvasive Diagnostic Unit, the specially designed McLaren Northern Michigan semi-truck carries equipment for nuclear cardiac testing, cardiac stress testing and echocardiogram imaging, and associated specialists: an echocardiogram tech, an exercise specialist for the treadmill stress test, a nuclear tech specialist and a registered nurse. A physician is required to be onsite for supervision.
“There has to be special site preparation for the truck—most important is the electricity requirements—so we can’t just pull up anywhere and operationalize the truck,” Clark says. Currently a Northern Michigan medical clinic in Gaylord and a clinic in Rogers City can accommodate the mobile testing truck.
The McLaren Northern Michigan cardiac team designed the truck from scratch, determining which pieces of equipment would go into it and figuring the optimal layout for patient flow. The testing equipment itself is standard testing equipment, but the team chose smaller models to maximize the space in the truck.
One unexpected benefit is the nuclear testing unit in the mobile unit allows the patient to sit rather than lie in an enclosed tube, as the fixed-base McLaren Northern Michigan hospital testing unit requires. “For claustrophobic patients, we will use that when the unit is parked at the Petoskey McLaren Northern Michigan location,” Clark says. And as for road worthiness: “We make sure the equipment is really locked down,” Clark says. Fully outfitted, the rig cost just over $500,000, and was paid for through donations to the McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation.