Is DispatchHealth categorized as a type of telemedicine? This is a good question. It’s also a topic we discuss during conversations with new partners from time to time — after all, we connect with patients via innovative technology, offer app-based interaction and leverage providers for on-demand support. Despite these commonalities, though, DispatchHealth’s integrated approach differs extensively from what you might consider “traditional” telehealth care.
Although upwards of 75 percent of hospitals across the U.S. now utilize telemedicine to support patients in some capacity, barriers and care gaps remain, particularly in the treatment of high-acuity and elderly patients. One in four Americans struggle with more than one chronic condition (rising to three in four in those over the age of 65), leaving health systems with an overwhelming number of patients that require in-person care. DispatchHealth is bridging this gap with an approach that bears a few fundamental differences when compared to conventional telemedicine.
Acknowledges the importance of human touch
Although healthcare innovations such as telemedicine, artificial intelligence and device development have resulted in tremendous industry progress, physical interaction and human touch remain critical elements of the provider-patient relationship. Following the guidelines of evidence-based algorithms is certainly critical, but this process is augmented by the way a physician practices the “art” of medicine. In our experience, physical examinations and excellent bedside manner are part of a hands-on approach that is imperative, both for effective care and improved health outcomes.
Essentially bringing back the house call, DispatchHealth provides on-demand healthcare in the comfort of a patient’s home. Patients simply request care via phone, the DispatchHealth app or website and a qualified medical team arrives at their home, work or other place of need (such as a senior living facility). Our integrated solution harnesses the power of technology and the unmatched advantage of high-touch, in-person care from trained medical providers.
Addresses higher acuity care needs
Because of its combined approach, DispatchHealth is capable of treating higher acuity care needs than standard telehealth solutions, meeting the same standard of care as a typical ER setting with regards to the tools and technology available. Our trained medical teams include a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, a DispatchHealth medical technician and an on-call physician who can address acute care needs and treat patients immediately.
Not only does this reduce hospital overcrowding, lengthy ER wait times and the total cost of care, but it also improves patient outcomes — especially for those with complicated health problems. Further, DispatchHealth providers have access to nearly 70 percent of the medical tools and technology offered in an ER, enabling them to administer medication and perform advanced tests and treatments in-home. This includes blood tests, EKGs, IVs, sutures, staples, splints and more.
Holistically factors in social determinants of health
Another rare feature of the DispatchHealth model is that it understands vital social determinants of health (SDH) when treating patients considerably better than health systems or telehealth can alone. These include financial and social health, food insecurity, health literacy and transportation and housing access, among others. Given 68 percent of patients experience challenges in at least one category, considering the impact of these determinants is an essential aspect of successful long-term care.
The deployed DispatchHealth providers can recognize factors such as the living conditions of the patient and how these may be impacting their overall health, ability to adhere to treatment and continued access to care. This may include fall hazards, the nutrition standards in a patient’s household, a lack of transportation and support or other circumstances. Following the visit, the team documents these SDH gaps and communicates them to the patient’s primary care physician. Treatment plans are often adjusted as a result and community resources can be extended, both of which can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Aligns with the new frontier of value-based care
Through a unique model, DispatchHealth is creating the most advanced and complete in-home care model around by providing the right resources to the right patient at the right time. In turn, this lowers costs and improves patient outcomes. Research shows that nearly half of all patients who visit the ER each day could be treated successfully in a lower cost setting like the home.
The payment system within healthcare is evolving, transitioning from a traditional fee-for-service model to a value-based one in which providers are being compensated based on outcomes. DispatchHealth is a champion of value-based care — treating patients on-site in less time, improving outcomes and patient satisfaction, and reducing follow-up needs and readmission rates. DispatchHealth care teams provide immediate treatment to complement and support a patient’s care team, not replace it. In addition to advising a patient’s primary care providers on notable SDHs, a detailed medical report is also provided to ensure continuity of care.
Although telehealth solutions provide extensive, indispensable benefits to health systems and patients alike, DispatchHealth is pioneering a different category of integrated care. Over the next several months, DispatchHealth will be expanding our service offerings, including providing ongoing recovery care for patients with complex health needs that are transitioning from the hospital or other acute care setting. We’ll also be offering 24/7 comprehensive in-home care as an alternative to a hospital stay for patients with select medical conditions that meet admission criteria.
Interested in finding out more about how DispatchHealth’s services could benefit your patients or community? Learn more about our partner programs here.