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New mobile bus to bring lung cancer screenings to east Tennessee, north Georgia

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 16, 2020
CT Mobile Imaging X-Ray

The Breathe Easy bus initially traveled two hours from its home base at CHI Memorial but now travels 1.5 hours to more easily manage patients and provide follow-up assistance. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, the bus continued screening patients in rural Tennessee and added diagnostic scans for patients in the CHI Memorial nodule surveillance program. Each patient enrolled is tracked through a centralized database and receives a follow-up annually. The program expeditiously provides follow-up testing or consultation with a provider, and connects patients with significant findings, such as lung cancer, immediately to a thoracic surgeon. Situations that involve only follow-up imaging can also be completed on the bus close to home, making it more convenient for the patient.

A financial analysis found that the break-even number of scans for the first year was 428. The Breathe Easy bus surpassed this by 120 scans, despite only scanning patients during 10 months in 2018.

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The new bus will include a more advanced CT scanner and coronary calcium scoring capabilities, and will be able to implement immunizations and other much-needed population health measures in rural counties. It also will have a separate entry and exit way instead of a shared entrance and exit like the prototype, along with an improved interior to maximize space and throughput.

"This study was a feasibility study to see if this approach to healthcare was not only practical but economically realistic," said Headrick. "Currently, the governor of Tennessee, the speaker of the House and our state legislatures are evaluating a plan to place eight buses across the state of Tennessee covering all 95 counties. Each bus will be tied to a specific medical center with all eight buses working together. It will likely be done in multiple phases with the eastern half of Tennessee operational in the next 12 to 24 months."

He adds that "in this new era of the coronavirus it also provides a way to continue healthcare closer to home while keeping patients safe."

The new Breathe Easy bus is expected to begin screenings in late fall 2020.

The findings for the study on the prototype were published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

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