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Mobile Medical Vehicle Regulations

Every state places a differing emphasis on mobile services such as medical (primary care, health screening, etc.), mobile dental, mobile audiology, and even salons and veterinary clinics.

Our staff conducted a state-by-state review of laws and regulations governing mobile and portable dentistry programs in the US. It appears as the number of these programs has increased across the nation, there has been a commensurate increase in the attention of regulatory bodies to providing parameters for their conduct.

Legislative and regulatory activity relative to mobile and portable dentistry has increased in recent years. The review of state law found that the majority of states still do not address mobile medical and dentistry to any noticeable extent in existing codes. However, at least 20 states have effected some rules or laws impacting the operations of these programs.

Fundamental differences in equipment and scope of services between mobile dental vans and portable programs might lead regulators to attend mainly to mobile dental vans, where equipment and services tend to be more extensive. However, most states that regulate do so conjointly, including both mobile and portable programs in basic common requirements while addressing the unique aspects of each modality in specific sections of law or regulation.

Laws and rules governing these modalities are generally placed as a coda to existing dental or dental hygiene practice acts or associated professional regulations; some program requirements are found in laws governing health facilities or schools. Medicaid law also addresses care provided in mobile formats, making them reimbursable services.

Alabama and Illinois, for example, address mobile and portable dentistry in tandem. California and Tennessee exclusively address mobile dental “units” or vans in regulatory provisions. States often include provisions specific to van operation, such as who may drive a van, how the van must be equipped (including requisite accessibility options), and so on. States may also require that a dentist either own or be the main “operator” of the van. These rules may also codify the requirements for facility amenities in places where portable programs provide services (eg, availability of a clean water supply or toilets).

Indiana regulates mobile dental facilities and portable dental operations but exempts dental hygienists working in portable programs from rules governing these facilities, provided that their conduct in community settings complies with the state Dental Hygiene Practice Act. Michigan defines a mobile dental facility as inclusive of self-contained facilities that can be transported from place to place as well as other sites used on a temporary basis for the provision of dental services using portable equipment.

Regulation of the professionals, allowable services, required supervision, and conditions for patient consent in community settings often appear in health professions laws and rules. State dental boards regulate the conditions for practice not only in private settings but also in the community and public health settings. Thus, a dental hygienist may be required to have a collaborating dentist or to work for a department of health when providing services in a school or nursing home.

The services that are allowable in those settings may require preauthorization or be limited to education and screening. Scope-of-practice restrictions may inhibit the full use of these professionals in public settings by limiting the provision of tasks within the basic competencies of dental hygienists (eg, prophylaxis). Many states now explicitly regulate practice in public settings through provisions that provide dental hygienists with greater professional autonomy in community settings than in private dental practices, assuming the dental hygienist meets experience and training requirements to work in public health settings.

Our team has compiled a comprehensive list of not only the states which regulate these services but helpful and valuable links to Dental Boards, Medical Boards, Application Permits, State Associations, Statutes, and Administrative Rules.

For other states, see below. On a desktop screen, use the navigation bar on the left to select the appropriate section. If we can answer questions, please click here to email us.

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