The Honda Priuses used by Dispatch Health are preloaded with a litany of supplies that allow the team to handle various low-level injuries and illnesses.
Special to AFN

Colorado-based Dispatch Health has brought its mobile urgent care platform to Tempe with plans to expand service to the rest of the East Valley later this year.

The company provides mobile urgent care units staffed by a board-certified physician assistant or nurse practitioner and an EMT who can treat patients at home or work. The Honda Priuses used by Dispatch are preloaded with a litany of supplies that allow the team to handle various low-level injuries and illnesses.

The teams are equipped to treat a range of issues, including common illnesses, joint and back pain, allergies, rashes, eye infections, gastrointestinal distress and respiratory issues.

They also can provide on-site services like IV placement, rapid infectious disease testing, Foley catheter insertion, splints, medication and advanced blood-lab testing.   

Potential patients can reach the service by phone, online or using smartphone apps for Android and iOS.

The company began service in Tempe and select areas in Phoenix and Scottsdale on Aug. 15, marking its first foray outside its home state.

The company is the first mobile urgent care service operating in Tempe, though similar services exist in other parts of the Valley.

Dispatch Health plans to add an additional car in the Phoenix metro area in October and expand its coverage area.

“We will likely (pursue) East Valley expansion first and then move into the West Valley,” chief strategy officer Kevin Riddleberger said.

Dispatch Health launched in 2013 in a small area in Denver in partnership with the local emergency management system. It started as a service to respond to some less-critical calls to 911 that did not require an emergency room transfer in order to free up resources for high acuity calls, Riddleberger said.

The company now has six vehicles in Denver and one in Colorado City and expects to see 10,000 patients in Denver alone in 2017. In Colorado, it accepts Medicare, Medicaid and many major insurers.

In Arizona, Dispatch Health works with Medicare and Medicaid and will begin accepting insurers Humana and United Healthcare in September with plans to work with other insurers in the future, Riddleberger said.

It is also currently in talks with fire agencies in the Phoenix area to potentially be an option for less-critical calls in the Valley.

The company has targeted the senior demographic as a primary user for its services, though it provides care to all age groups.

Rather than a replacement for traditional medical services, Dispatch Health is positioning itself as a complement to things like emergency services, hospitals and primary-care physicians.

“We’re not another fragmented access point to health care,” Riddleberger said. “This is not redundant care; (it) fills in the gaps.”

For instance, the company claims it can save users money by avoiding costly emergency room trips for less-critical health issues that do not require that level of care.

The median charge for the 10 most common emergency room outpatient conditions in the U.S. is over $1,230, according to an article published in the multidisciplinary open-access journal PLOS ONE.

The uninsured rate for Dispatch Health customers costs a flat fee of $275, said Riddleberger.

This is part of a larger trend in the health-care industry as a whole, which is “experiencing a shift toward preventive and value-based care,” according to Stanford Medicine 2017 Health Trends Report.

Urgent care services, specifically, are experiencing growth. There were 6,400 urgent cares in the U.S. in 2013 versus over 7,100 in 2017, according to a report from physician employment and consulting company Merritt Hawkins.

The company leverages its dual roles as medical provider and technology platform to gather patient data in an attempt to increase the quality of care and reduce repeat visits for the same condition.

It does this by checking in with patients three days after a visit and then checking with local health information exchange 14 and 30 days after care to determine whether the patient visited a hospital for that same complaint.

Dispatch Health providers also have the ability to gather information on site that can contribute to patient illness or injury and share that information with primary-care providers and hospitals.

The increased access to data in health care is a key factor allowing doctors to more effectively treat patients, according to the Stanford report.

When sharing information, the company uses industry standard practices and has the proper HIPAA business associates agreements in place to ensure confidentiality, Riddleberger said.

The service is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 365 days a year.

– Reach Wayne Schutsky at 480-898-6533 or wschutsky@timespublications.com.

 

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