At-home health care startup sees rise in demand as patients try to avoid hospitals

Health care professionals with DispatchHealth travel to patients’ homes for non-emergency care. (Courtesy DispatchHealth)

As rising COVID-19 cases overwhelm hospitals, DispatchHealth is providing some relief for patients who want to keep away from the waiting room.

The Denver-based mobile checkup startup, led by Dr. Mark Prather, dispatches nurses and EMTs directly to patients’ homes. In the face of the pandemic, the company, which operates in 18 U.S. markets, has had a 40 percent increase in at-home care requests nationally.

“This really brings us back to why we were founded originally,” Carah Campini, the company’s Colorado market director, said. “If you look at folks that are older folks or immunocompromised, they are always at risk of contracting an infectious disease, and so being able to provide care in the home, with or without a pandemic is really critical, particularly for our most vulnerable.”

DispatchHealth’s Carah Campini

The healthcare startup doesn’t test patients for coronavirus, as supplies are limited nationwide, or provide care for those who have tested positive. However, its nurses and EMTs still are treating those with respiratory issues and other virus symptoms with extra precaution, wearing booties and gowns.

DispatchHealth’s nurses and EMTs can provide a majority of care given in emergency rooms at a fraction of the cost, Campini said. They have treated patients as young as 3 months and as old as 108.

“We can treat everything from acute exacerbations of congestive heart failure or COPD,” Campini said. “We carry a pharmacy of IV and oral medications. You know, sprains and strains, minor breaks and fractures we can treat in the hall. There’s a range of complex issues and patients we can take care of.”

To ensure patient safety, DispatchHealth teams wear surgical masks, gloves and eye protection for every patient encounter. They are wiping down medical kits and contents before and after every visit, as well as disinfecting their cars.

In order to meet growing demand, the healthcare startup is adding capacity on both its clinical teams and in its call centers. In Denver alone, the company, with headquarters in Industry RiNo Station, expects to see 24,000 to 30,000 patients this year.

DispatchHealth, founded in 2013, operates in 18 cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Seattle and Portland. Nationwide, the teams anticipate they’ll see about 160,000 patients in 2020, Campini said.

“We were founded by an ER physician who saw an opportunity to bring a lot of the care that’s provided in the emergency room to the home,” Campini said. “After 20 years in that setting and seeing the sheer volume of folks that could be treated safely and more comfortably at home, even without a pandemic, is pretty significant. And so I think that this really just reinforces the need for a model of care delivery that is comfortable for patients and safe.”

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