DENVER — Flu season brings with it DayQuil, cough drops and three-foot-high piles of tissues, but one Denver startup is looking to make sure it doesn’t require a trip to the emergency room.
DispatchHealth is a Denver-based company that provides mobile healthcare, bringing anything an urgent care could do — and some things it can’t — to the comfort of patients’ homes.
Now, DispatchHealth is gearing up for flu season with its mobile Flu Crew.
Patients in the Denver metro, including Boulder and Broomfield counties, can have a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant and a medical technician — supported virtually by a board-certified physician — come to their door rather than go to the ER for flu symptoms. Without leaving their own bed, patients can be cared for with rapid infectious diseases tests, IV fluids, prescribed anti-nausea medication and even chest X-rays.
“We’re providing other options if you’re feeling ill,” Melanie Plaksin, DispatchHealth’s marketing director for Colorado, told BizWest. “Our traveling Flu Crew comes to you so you don’t have to go into another setting, especially because the flu is very contagious. And the flu is nasty, it’s much better to come to someone while they’re sleeping in bed or laying on the couch and can be more comfortable.”
DispatchHealth is bringing back the medical house call. It is available in Denver and Colorado Springs, as well as Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. The company, which started in 2015, plans to add services in Massachusetts and Washington. It has 200 employees nationwide, with about 110 in Colorado. There are eight traveling teams in the Denver metro — which operates as far north as Longmont — and two more will come online by the end of the year. There are three teams in Colorado Springs, soon to be a fourth.
DispatchHealth can serve more than just the flu. It can handle minor fractures to sutures to migraines to even more-advanced situations such as replacing clogged feeding tubes. If it’s not a life-threatening condition — such as a heart attack or stroke, where a patient should absolutely go to the emergency room — but may be something that a person would wait for hours at the ER or urgent care for, DispatchHealth can likely care for it.
In fact, Plaksin recommends giving them a call — or go online or use their mobile app — before a trip to the ER or urgent care.
“Our team can assess your symptoms to make sure it’s appropriate to treat you,” she said. “We will tell you if you need to go to the hospital or if it’s more appropriate to see your primary-care provider. Otherwise, we’ll tell you how long it will take to get to you.”
She said a team can come in about one to two hours, versus the average wait time of four hours at the ER.
“If you can’t get into your primary-care doctor, because they don’t have same-day access, call us, and we’ll be able to treat you on scene,” she said, adding that many primary-care groups are referring to DispatchHealth for after-hours and weekend needs.
DispatchHealth isn’t only saving patients a trip to the emergency room, but money as well. Going to a primary-care doctor is still the lowest-cost option, but if a patient isn’t able to get into their doctor, they are often debating between an urgent care or the ER. DispatchHealth bills directly to insurance and hits the urgent-care benefit most insurances have. So while a trip to the ER could cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, a visit from DispatchHealth could cost whatever their urgent-care copay is. But patients don’t have to guess the cost of having DispatchHealth come to them.
“We are really for cost transparency to patients,” Plaksin said. “We can provide exact details to individuals and tell them the cost before.”
Although the doctor home visit is nothing new, it’s something that has largely fallen out of favor for the last 70 years. DispatchHealth is looking to educate people on its offerings. So far, it’s been a hit, with patient satisfaction extremely high.
Long-term, the company is looking at providing its services to other states. Looking at the immediate future, DispatchHealth is looking to increase awareness of its flu season offerings — as well as the many other aches, ailments and illnesses it can handle for patients.
“We recommend if you’re not quite sure where to go to give us a call,” Plaksin said.