A lot has certainly changed over the past few weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, spurring new thinking around the way healthcare is delivered. As an integrated and complementary tool designed to partner with risk-bearing organizations, DispatchHealth has been evolving care delivery by bringing high acuity medical care into patient’s homes since 2013.
Much like a prescription for change, the ways we address the rapidly evolving demands on healthcare systems are ever evolving. Here are six ways we are working with our health system partners from coast-to-coast to help them through this COVID-19 crisis.
1. Acute care rovers – the traditional DispatchHealth acute-care model
It’s important to keep patients out of the hospital who don’t require inpatient care now more than ever. We’re partnered with hundreds of outpatient clinics that are restricting hours or moving to a strictly virtual model. Subsequently, there is less access to healthcare for everyday patients. Take, for example, our Dallas-Fort Worth market. Our health system partner is ensuring they have the capacity to treat high-risk patients and is leaning on DispatchHealth to care for everyone else they aren’t able to catch right now.
Suture removal, catheter replacement, and the like are simple examples of how we’re helping maintain care to patients who would otherwise be required to go into a physician’s office. However, as always, DispatchHealth is equipped to essentially bring the “ER-level care” into the home with ER-trained providers capable of laboratory testing, IV medication administration, advanced procedures (including sprains and strains, minor breaks and fractures), and diagnostics. DispatchHealth has also been adding capacity and additional rovers to some of the hardest-hit areas including the Pacific Northwest and New Jersey.
A recent article in HealthLeaders features Dr. Stephen Klasko CEO of Jefferson Health and his outlook on how healthcare will change post-COVID-19. “My passion has been about how we move the predominance of healthcare from the hospital to the home,” Klasko says.
This ties together nicely with our motto right now of keeping a broad range of patients at home to minimize the strain on local acute care facilities, freeing up capacity and allowing them to prioritize patients with critical needs, while also reducing risk and maximizing containment for everyone else, including the elderly and immunocompromised.
2. Specific COVID-19 Response Teams – dedicated vehicles outside of hospital settings
In markets where inpatient beds remain a scarcity, or where resources for high-risk patients are limited, DispatchHealth can play a key role alleviating those constraints. For instance, we have teamed up with a partner who operates in one of the hardest hit areas of the country to DispatchHealth as a part of their “drop team” concept.
In this model, a team of folks, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and following strict clinical and safety protocols, is sent into a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) to test everyone, patients and staff included. This allows the facility to be proactive and help formulate a plan to address where the response is going to be needed. It also provides an important opportunity to care for as many patients in place as possible; if they were to be treated within an inpatient wing, often the SNF does not want them to return back into the facility due to the risk of exposure back to the community.
Our processes and capabilities are evolving quickly. We have put additional protocols in place to keep our medical teams and patients safe. Enhanced PPE guidelines for entering and exiting patient rooms and handling any materials used in patient protection or care include:
- Our teams wear surgical masks, gloves and eye protection for every patient encounter, plus an N95 respirator masks, gowns and booties for patients with respiratory symptoms
- We thoroughly disinfect our kits and cars between visits
- We have adjusted our process for screening patients over the phone
- Donning of PPE should occur at the entry to the specific unit where the patient care will occur unless the facility has specifically arranged for an alternate location (lobby, changing area, etc.)
- Doffing of PPE will occur at the exit of the specific unit where care was completed and prior to entry into the main corridors of the community
- All refuse should be collected and disposed of in the patient’s unit or completely bagged and sealed prior to entry into the corridors of the community. Refuse should not be transported in the DispatchHealth vehicles and should be disposed of prior to entering back into the vehicle.
3. Advanced care support – 24/7 monitoring, support, and coordination
Partners are leveraging our advanced care capabilities and hospitalist team to support auxiliary and temporary care settings established in the community as an augmentation to their staff. For example, the DispatchHealth team is working with multiple partners throughout the country on a strategy to treat patients in dorm rooms and hotel wings, if needed. Leaning on support from the DispatchHealth hospitalist team, we can provide much needed support to offset a severe shortage of acute care providers.
4. Community Partnerships – coordination of urgent need
The need for widespread collaboration during the COVID-19 emergency has led to many innovative partnerships to tackle urgent and emerging needs. To optimize resources and best serve the local community at scale, DispatchHealth is partnering with EMS agencies in all markets to share supplies of PPE to help offset the shortage and to protect the physical health of the frontline workers.
Additionally, DispatchHealth is uniquely positioned inside a patient’s home, where we often see the social determinants of health first-hand. Because of this, we’ve established partnerships to help us provide food and ongoing food delivery to patients at home who are experiencing food insecurity. By helping to ease one social determinant of health that interferes with a patient’s ability to lead a healthy lifestyle, we hope to prevent and treat healthcare conditions and improve outcomes.
5. Virtual visits – capacity lever for rover visits
A recent Harvard Business Journal highlights – “Medicine is medicine, no matter how and where it’s practiced.” Technology is having its shining moment during COVID-19, proving telehealth is effective for safe and efficient communications between patient and providers.
We are able to stand-up telehealth services quickly if a health system partner requires it but more often than not, we integrate with an already existing telehealth program the health system has in place. Several of our health system partners are using this feature as a capacity lever to conserve the rover visits for acute care treatments where onsite care is essential and use a virtual visit to care for patients that do not require physical assistance/treatment.
6. Tele-presentation – alternative model for care delivery
An example of rapid innovation in the face of a crisis, we’ve launched a new solution which combines virtual care with our extensive in-home experience. In this model, called Tele-Presentation, we deploy a DispatchHealth medic to the patient’s home, equipped with cutting edge technology that enables them to tele-present a thorough medical exam to a virtual provider. In some markets, we are deploying this solution jointly with a health system partner, allowing them to better utilize furloughed providers and arming them with the tools and a platform to explore new, advanced care delivery models.
In addition to these innovations, we’ve also been able to accelerate the launch of a brand-new market. Recognizing DispatchHealth would be in their wheelhouse to support them through their peak period of COVID-19 patients, Renown Health in Reno, Nevada will be launching this week, a mere month and a half after signing an agreement. Of course, this involved many operational miracles and was sped along by an already existing state of Nevada license from our current partner in Las Vegas.
These are just a few of the many ways DispatchHealth and partnered health systems can work together to provide high-acuity care in alternative ways.
If you are interested in learning more about DispatchHealth and the innovative ways we work with our health system partners, please reach out to our Chief of Provider Strategy to set up a brief introductory call.