Photo illustration courtesy of Ford.

Photo illustration courtesy of Ford.

The University of Kansas is developing a fleet of Ford Transit Connect vans to deliver medical care to non-ambulatory patients in rural areas that will include an initial van donated by the automaker.

The vans will help the WellCar medical program reach patients who can't travel to a medical center or doctor's office. They will help health-care professionals provide testing, diagnosis and treatment. Starting in early 2015, the university will assign a nurse practicioner to begin using the initial vehicle.

The WellCar Transit Connect will be equipped with several medical devices and a Wi-Fi hotspot so the nurse can transfer medical data for immediate evaluation, according to Ford.

School design and engineering students will create the specifications for the installation of medical equipment and integrate the equipment into the vehicle, which will be upfitted by Kranz Truck Equipment in Kansas City, Mo.

"This is a great opportunity for students to work on a real-world project," said Gregory Thomas, design professor and director of the Center for Design Research. "They will conceptualize it, plan it and then figure out how to incorporate and design technologies into the WellCar."

The van will eventually be added to a fleet with as many as four WellCar Transit Connect vans to serve western Kansas. The school has received requests to extend the program to Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Transit Connect gets an EPA-rated 30 miles per gallon on the highway.