DENVER, CO – As the rate of digital health innovation increases around the world, more and more entrepreneurs are recognizing the importance of integrating their solutions with the existing healthcare system. Prime Health’s recent decision to create a digital health value integrator, which is intended to increase the speed at which providers adopt digital health interventions, is a clear indication of this growing recognition.
DispatchHealth, a Denver-based acute care delivery service, has made integration with the healthcare delivery system a major focus of its business model. Dr. Mark Prather and Kevin Riddleberger, the founders of DispatchHealth, recently spoke with CyberMed News about the importance of integrating their services with primary care providers.
How does DispatchHealth represent a departure from traditional primary care delivery models?
Riddleberger: It’s clear to say that we’re not a primary care delivery model. We’re really an adjunct to the current primary care system. We are very big believers in primary care being at the center of people’s lives. We know that primary care providers are challenged with taking care of a lot of folks with limited resources. We consider ourselves a resource they can call upon when their patients are in need and they can’t get them in the office.
Dr. Prather: We work with a gerontologist who oversees a significant patient population in some of the local senior care facilities. Often, she’s fielding calls at 6, 7, or even 8 p.m. Generally, this is a sicker population. It’s very difficult for her to manage over the phone.
With DispatchHealth, she now has a lab and a clinician that can arrive and intervene. Traditionally, she would have had to send her patients to the emergency room. Now she’s calling DispatchHealth. We’re arriving and delivering that same level of care in the home.
How does DispatchHealth integrate with primary care?
Dr. Prather: We integrate into their triage points. That triage point may be a care coordinator, an office manager, or even the doctors themselves. We help them understand that DispatchHealth is an option for them. In the past, we were very good at teaching providers to send their patients to the ER. But as providers have been rethinking this triage strategy, we’re teaching them that DispatchHealth can be a better option than the emergency room for some patients.
It’s also very important that we communicate to providers how we cared for their patients. Better communication equals better outcomes. When they arrive in the morning, the data is pushed into their EHR and they can see exactly what was done.
Riddleberger: Traditionally getting data to pass from provider to provider has been a huge challenge in healthcare. There are things that are helping with this – Meaningful Use, for example – but we still have a long way to go to achieve true data interoperability. To aid in this, we’re currently bundling our clinical notes in a structure that providers can consume in a meaningful manner.
How do you see DispatchHealth transforming how primary care is delivered?
Riddleberger: It’s all about being able to take care of a population well, making them healthier while using fewer resources. That’s why we want to integrate with primary care. They need to continue to be informed and also empowered to be successful as we transform from a fee-for-service to a value-based care model.
It’s also about filling gaps in care. Traditionally, there’s been a gap around acute care delivery. It could be that a patient was seen at an urgent care center or in an emergency department and their primary care provider was not updated on what medications were prescribed and what procedures were performed. It’s really about closing that gap, and keeping those providers informed and in the loop.
Do you see your company as part of a growing trend of mobile care delivery?
Dr. Prather: Ten years from now you’ll see a system of care that exists outside the walls of the hospital. For the sickest of the sick, who struggle with getting to an office, primary care doctors will actually be going and seeing those patients in their homes and delivering care there. Imagine a system where you have home-based primary care, home-based acute care – which would be DispatchHealth – and then hospital-at-home. Given the changes in technology and everything else, we’ve got an opportunity to provide care in a more humane way and at a lower cost.