In Conversation with Dr. Mark Prather, Co-Founder & CEO, DispatchHealth
By Andrew Adams, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Oak HC/FT
What was the genesis of DispatchHealth?
Medical challenges I experienced with senior members of my own family led me to question our approach to geriatric acute care. That was when I began pouring through the literature around geriatric acute care, and I stumbled upon the work of Dr. Bruce Leff, who described a home hospitalization model that’s commonplace in other countries. His studies showed that home hospitalization demonstrated superior clinical efficacy, compared with a similar care model delivered in the hospital.
Dr. Leff has since become an advisor to DispatchHealth. His work, combined with my own experience, led me to believe that we could safely recreate a large portion of care that we traditionally delivered at the hospital, in the home. In doing so, we could substantially reduce costs, improve satisfaction, and produce superior outcomes. In 2013, we put our first ‘mobile ER’ on the road, and the rest is history.
There’s some activity around new care models, virtual care, digital tools and even devices fueling interest in health care delivered at home. What’s behind that interest, and is the COVID-19 pandemic the catalyst or the accelerant?
COVID is the accelerant, not the catalyst.
Before the pandemic, Dispatch was growing 200% YoY with a Net Promoter Score of 95. The adoption of home care has been driven by demand from patients, improved clinical efficacy, and lower costs. COVID is just accelerating what home-based clinicians already understood.
As we’ve seen during the pandemic, anything can be delivered at home, so why not high acuity medical care? Dispatch brings the hospital, the ER, or the skilling nursing facility to the patient’s home, and you see an improvement in clinical outcomes simply by delivering care in the home. As a clinician, this is the most important thing for me.
If you transport a provider from the ER to the home, that provider can spend on average 45 minutes face to face with the patient in their own environment. With this new context, that same ER provider will deliver naturally superior, more personalized care that yields better outcomes.
Tell me about a patient story that best illustrates your impact.
We had a 65-year-old patient with obesity and sleep apnea who was suffering from a worsening of her congestive heart failure. The patient was cared for by a physician in a partnered PACE program, who noticed that she was short of breath, coughing, and her legs were swelling.
The Dispatch medical team arrived at the patient’s home, and it appeared her congestive heart failure had worsened, and her oxygen level was low. This was a situation that would typically require admission to the hospital. With Dispatch, that admission was able to occur in the home. We were able to perform tests, provide physician and nursing care, and administer medication just like the hospital ward, without the risk of exposing her to COVID.
Dispatch provided care for her for 14 days, and during that time, in addition to treating her congestive heart failure exacerbation, we were able to understand her social environment and address problems that would not have been identifiable in the hospital — her CPAP machine was not working properly, she did not have a functioning scale, she did not understand her medication, she needed a physical therapist, and she didn’t know her primary care physician well. The Dispatch medical team was able to help her with all these problems. Our team even took her to the local grocery store to show her what foods were good for her congestive heart failure.
In the end, the patient understood her medical condition better, reconnected with her primary care physician, was in much better physical condition, and she was ecstatic that she could now play with her grandchild.
Tell me about the importance of technology in your business and how do you use it?
We couldn’t do it without the technology platform. When we founded Dispatch, we couldn’t find the technology off the shelf for what we were trying to create. In the world of acute care and emergency medicine, we needed a logistics platform that could respond to the random arrival pattern of acute care visits and facilitate care coordination for complex health issues in the home.
Our technology platform connects us to our longitudinal care partners. After treatment, each medical team sends detailed notes back to a patient’s primary care physician and the patient directly to ensure all parties are kept informed and connected. Our software is built so that Dispatch can collect valuable structured data from the hundreds of patients seen each day throughout the country. Our data science team analyzes that data to improve care by spotting trends in care needs among different age demographics and identifying important social determinants of health.
You just closed a significant recent round. What are some key areas of investment for you?
We’re very focused on talent right now — we’ve tripled the size of our development team. In June, Shannon Werb also joined as Chief Operating Officer. He joined from the leading national provider of teleradiology services and telemedicine services, where he was President & Chief Operating Officer. Sara Crate also joined the team as Chief Commercial Officer. She has a unique background that’s going to help us accelerate partnerships with everyone from payers to employers.
We’re also rolling out additional service lines and accelerating what was already a rapid market expansion plan. We’re currently in 20 markets across the country and plan to double that by next year.
Finally, we’re investing in our employees. We’ve been scrappy for many years, and we’re excited to acknowledge the employees that helped us get here.
· If I weren’t a CEO, I would be… A rock star. I play drums, piano and guitar!
· What’s on your desk right now? A mask, computer, and 20 sheets of papers with lists and doodles.
· What one piece of advice would you offer to an entrepreneur? As an entrepreneur, your investors are incredibly important. Bring on investors that are as bought into the vision as you are.