issue Fall 2020

Innovation Spotlight

By Sara Skoog, Photos courtesy of DispatchHealth

Kevin Riddleberger, MBA, MS '03, PA-C
Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, DispatchHealth, Denver

When physician assistant Kevin Riddleberger and his business partner co-founded DispatchHealth in 2013, they were asking themselves how patients could get urgent medical services in their home while avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room, and do so in a way that lowers costs and improves clinical outcomes for both patients and the healthcare system. Their solution: DispatchHealth, an in-home healthcare service that brings the urgent care center to the patient.

“When you think about overutilization and high costs, you think of facility-based models and unnecessary trips to the ER via 911,” Mr. Riddleberger said. “Depending on the literature you read, 37% of ER visits really don’t belong in the ER. We wanted to offer an alternative. What better place to provide a high level of care than in the home, where folks are most comfortable?”

He added that patient comfort and safety have always been priorities for DispatchHealth, and are top of mind in patients and providers alike during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Once COVID hit, everyone started seeing the home a little bit differently, as a safe place to access and receive care and deliver care. Healthcare consumers are scared to access care in typical healthcare settings right now,” Mr. Riddleberger said. “We’re able to bring the right infection control into people’s homes to meet them where they’re at, especially those who are the most vulnerable — those with multiple underlying conditions.”

DispatchHealth treats patients as young as 3 months all the way to the geriatric population. A typical visit goes like this: A two-person team consisting of an ER-trained PA or nurse practitioner and a medic arrives in a vehicle stocked with seven cases of clinical equipment and supplies — everything from a 12-lead EKG machine, IV fluids, splints, advanced formulary of IV/PO medications and a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified lab kit. According to Mr. Riddleberger, teams stay an average of 42 minutes, document the clinical encounter and circle back with the patient’s primary care doctor to ensure coordination of care and continuity.

Relationships with other providers, insurance companies, hospitals and health systems are essential to DispatchHealth’s development and continued growth. “Primary care groups, home health agencies, senior living communities — we’re wrapped into their services in the markets where we operate,” he said. “When we receive a request for a home visit, it could be a digital request from a patient, or their PCP calling us, or through a home that is enabled with remote patient monitoring.”

That’s where another major contributor to DispatchHealth’s success comes into play: The technology that keeps everything moving from point A to B.

“We’re not only a healthcare delivery company, we’re a technology-enabled healthcare company,” Mr. Riddleberger explained. “We have a built technology platform internally that helps us deliver high acuity care in the home safely — from a patent-pending risk stratification tool at the front end to help size care, to a healthcare logistics platform to move teams across the country safely and efficiently in the home.”

According to Mr. Riddleberger, the Denver-based company currently has a presence in 23 markets across 15 states and employs 800 people across the country, with plans to be in 27 markets and 18 states by year’s end. He added that DispatchHealth has treated more than 200,000 patients and saved over $250 million in medical costs since its inception, and it most recently closed on a Series C round of capital of $135.8 million, with more than $200 million capital raised since inception.

“It’s not only moving ER level of care into the home but moving a system of care into the home,” Mr. Riddleberger added. “We are not only treating ER-level care in the home, but now hospitalizing patients safely in the home for typical DRG-based conditions (diagnosis related group) such as COPD, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, cellulitis and others. We’ve been doing it in Denver for the last nine months and getting fantastic clinical outcomes. We’ll be delivering hospital-level care in six of our markets by the end of 2021. It’s pretty transformational in health care when you start pushing the system of care into the home and breaking down the walls of legacy facility-based care.”