People hear that DispatchHealth provides urgent care and often assume it’s a convenient service that only wealthy people can afford. The reality is that we treat the sickest among our communities, whether that’s in a gated neighborhood or low-income housing.
In just a few hours a patient can hit dozens of obstacles within healthcare’s fragmented system resulting in profound human, social and economic burdens. These burdens bear down hardest on aging people and those struggling to keep a roof over their head and survive another day.
DispatchHealth is working to bridge these gaps. People who serially use the emergency room can now get care right from their sofa. We offer complex medicine that often includes things like IV antibiotics, sutures or the use of our portable lab or EKG. And we provide these services for people of all ages from three months to people well into their 10th decade.
I’ve ridden along with our teams in different cities and it’s always a profound experience. My 27-year career includes more than 10 years in healthcare but I’ve only worked in a company that actually provides care since early this year. It’s in these days with our provider teams that my eyes are finally opened to the interwoven complexities of access to care and the host of social determinants that drive most of our health needs.
While sitting firmly on one of the cases we carry supplies in, one of our DispatchHealth medical technicians (DHMT) gently traces an anxious patient’s arm with his fingers and painlessly finds a vein so he can draw blood to test right there in the living room and start an IV. This woman has no family, recently lost a job of nearly two decades and says she’s never had a doctor. She found DispatchHealth on Google. She has a string of ER visits just a few calendar pages back. She hasn’t followed up on any referrals because she’s scared, broke, anxious and says her only healthcare is to “rub some dirt on it” and keep going. We refer her to a clinic that will take her insurance for the primary care she needs and in a few days, we will call to check in and see if she’s done that or needs additional help.
An elderly woman living alone hands us her carefully typed five page health history encased in plastic page protectors and allows us to gently remove her sock and examine her foot, which is very painful. She was referred to DispatchHealth by her insurance company. She uses a walker and oxygen and has a complicated health history but she’s on top of every detail as is the next patient, living in a pleasant, well kept low income senior apartment and unable to drive. She has a carefully handwritten list of medications ready for us and our portable lab confirms the ailment for which she called us. She’s bright-eyed and an astute inhabitant of her own body who found out about DispatchHealth from a local senior transportation company.
These are just a few examples of people who either don’t have a primary care doctor to quarterback and monitor their complex situations or those that can’t get an appointment to see their physician today but have acute health problems that they would otherwise take to an emergency room. Many of their maladies demand more advanced care than can be offered in an urgent care, and we’re able to provide just that.
By spending an hour administering care in someone’s most intimate space at home instead of 10 minutes in a clinic, providers are able to identify social determinants — like social isolation or economic stressors — that may be contributing to the patient’s physical symptoms. We offer the same care in the family room of a multi-million dollar home as we do in a one room, low income apartment or assisted living facility. We’ve treated patients in executive office suites, soccer fields, hotel rooms, senior living communities, hospices and, once, in a Red Lobster parking lot.
And it’s the same relief on every face when we spend the time needed to listen, assess and extend care and it’s changed my view of healthcare — it really can be delivered with a totally different human and economic outcome.
If you believe house calls are something your grandparents wistfully looked back on or something only the privileged can afford, think again. The return on the dollars invested today was up to six times their cost. Today I witnessed three people who lacked access to healthcare actually get sophisticated, human-to-human care. The kind that can help them live just a little better tomorrow than they did today.