Proven success at providing quality care to patients at home while lowering costs has both investors and health insurance companies intrigued

Some call it “hospital in the home.” Whatever name it is given, the high cost of keeping a patient overnight in a hospital is motivating a range of healthcare players to develop innovative ways to provide care to patients—even patients with acute conditions—in their home. This is a trend that clinical laboratories will want to watch.

With hospital beds costing $1,000 to $2,000 per night, the economics of being treated in the comfort of their homes can be attractive to patients. But it’s also popular with caregivers, investors, and payers, as well. That’s why in-home healthcare services are becoming increasingly common nationwide, and why clinical laboratories may be supplying services to more in-home healthcare companies in the future.

One such company is DispatchHealth of Denver, Colo., which recently brought its “ER-at-Home” in-home healthcare model to cities in Texas, Massachusetts, and Washington State.

Focused primarily on seniors with high-acuity medical conditions, “Patients or caregivers contact DispatchHealth through their smartphone app, website, or phone call line and the company sends over a home care team consisting of a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, along with an [emergency] medical technician. The team has the ability to perform clinical laboratory studies, infusion, EKGs, and some higher-level procedures, such as the repair of complex lacerations,” MedCity News reported.

The DispatchHealth team arrives prepared to treat Influenza (Flu), fever, joint or back pain, sprains, strains, eye infections, urinary tract infections, skin rashes, and lacerations. The team also can treat more severe conditions that cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as asthma and other respiratory conditions, and illnesses of the ear, nose, and throat.

In addition, the DispatchHealth team can perform certain clinical laboratory tests onsite, including:

  • blood tests,
  • strep test,
  • flu swab,
  • urinalysis,
  • urine cultures,
  • stool culture,
  • test for blood in stool,
  • pregnancy test,
  • lactate,
  • 12-lead EKG,
  • PT/INR (prothrombin time/international normalized ratio)
  • rapid infectious disease testing and more.

Home Care Can Save Millions in Healthcare Costs

High-acuity home care is a development that clinical laboratory leaders will want to monitor because these services save people trips to medical laboratories, urgent care centers, primary care doctors’ offices, and even emergency rooms.

“We strive to treat conditions between the ER and true emergencies—so COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbation, pneumonia, severe migraines, and other issues we can treat with IV (intravenous therapy) medication … and laboratory studies,” Mark Prather, MD, DispatchHealth Chief Executive Officer, told MedCity News, which noted the company’s partnership with Centura Health, Colorado Springs, Colo., among others.

Established in 2013 in Denver, DispatchHealth provides both mobile and virtual healthcare, is in-network with healthcare insurance companies, and has relationships with healthcare systems.

The company expanded this year into new markets and added partnerships with more healthcare systems, including:

Through in-home care teams (such as shown above), DispatchHealth estimates delivery of acute care to about 80,000 patients nationwide in 2019 for a savings of $100 million in medical expenses. “Up to 50% of people who visit the emergency room every day could be treated in a lower cost setting,” said DispatchHealth Chief Executive Officer Mark Prather, MD, in a news release. (Photo copyright: Philips.)

In the Spokane market, the company’s six teams and two vehicles can see about seven patients per day for an average of 45 minutes to an hour per visit, reported the Spokesman-Review. DispatchHealth employs more than 200 people and has raised more than $33 million in growth capital financing, according to a company statement.

Home Care Rewards Healthcare Networks

Dark Daily previously reported on Northwell Health, a nonprofit integrated healthcare network in New York State, which received $1.8 million in incentive payments as part of the Independence at Home Demonstration Project from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center. (See, “Medicare’s Independence at Home Program Saves Federal Government Millions While Paying Millions to Health Providers That Meet Quality Benchmarks,” November 20, 2019.)

The project involved and recognized medical practices that effectively and efficiently cared for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions at home. 

More recently, Northwell Health Labs, a division of Northwell Health, launched LabFly, a smartphone app that enables patients to schedule blood draws at home or at work, according to a news release.

“The app is a new way to give our patients access to the quality experience they would receive at one of our patient service centers, but in their living room or place of work,” said Dwayne Breining, MD, Executive Director, Northwell Health Labs, in the news release.

Investors Are Intrigued with In-Home Care

The business of treating people in their homes or offices has some investors excited at the opportunity.

“To us, this feels like we’re investing in Uber in 2010. This is going to revolutionize and change the entire healthcare industry,” Samir Patel, Principal and co-founder of IRA Capital told the New York Times. Patel was commenting on his firm’s investment in Heal, a Los Angeles-based in-home healthcare company that launched in 2014.

In response to being contacted by smartphone app, computer, or phone, Heal sends primary care doctors and medical assistants to treat people in their homes, workplace, or at hotels. 

Heal estimates completion of more than 100,000 house calls in 2019 and savings in healthcare expenses of more than $53 million due to treating people in lower cost ways, a news release stated. The company said it has experienced a 310% growth rate over 12 months and now operates in Atlanta, Georgia, California, New York, North Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

“Ten years from now, we will think of going to the doctor’s office as dated and arbitrary as going to the store to buy diapers compared to buying diapers on Amazon,” Nick Desai, co-founder of Heal, told FierceHealthcare, which reported Heal had raised $71 million from investors.

Payers Are Onboard as Well

High-acuity home care services also seem to align with health insurance company benefits and new federal payment models. Heal’s website states their services are in-network with most Medicare Advantage plans. Heal’s smartphone app also can verify insurance coverage.

DispatchHealth explains on its website that it contracts with major payers, including Medicare and Medicaid, and charges self-pay customers $275.

The economics addressed by high-acuity home care companies make sense. The average hospital stay costs more than $10,000, according to Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data cited by Business Insider

Medical laboratory leaders should consider developing relationships with high-acuity home healthcare companies and other care providers that deliver care to people in unconventional ways and in non-traditional locations.  

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Denver-based DispatchHealth Expands High Acuity Home Care Service

DispatchHealth Furthers Nationwide Expansion and Announces New Health System Partnerships

DispatchHealth Closes $33 Million in Growth Financing Led by Echo Health Ventures

MultiCare Partners with Denver-based Firm to Offer House Call Medical Care in Spokane

Northwell Health Launches LabFly in Manhattan, Queens, First Health System App to Facilitate Blood Draws at Home or Work

When the Waiting Room is Your Living Room

Most Expensive Health Conditions Hospital Costs

Medicare’s Independence at Home Program Saves Federal Government Millions While Paying Millions to Providers That Meet Quality Benchmarks