To better prevent hospital overcrowding and risk of exposure to the coronavirus, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) is partnering with DispatchHealth to deploy medical mobile units that can deliver in-home care to thousands of the insurer’s members.
Denver-based DispatchHealth is a medical in-home care provider that works to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations for patients of all ages. The company has 18 locations in major cities around the U.S., though that number will likely grow in 2020 as it makes progress on its current expansion push.
Founded in 2013, Dispatch launched its Oklahoma City branch in May of 2018. While the company doesn’t currently test for the COVID-19 virus or treat patients who have tested positive, it does treat ailments that may ordinarily require a hospital visit for more vulnerable populations such as seniors.
The idea behind DispatchHealth’s new partnership with BCBSOK is to keep those at-risk patients from having to go to the hospital, potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus. As of Monday, there have been over 2,000 cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
“As the COVID-19 crisis has continued to arise, Dispatch has been proactively reaching out to all of our partners in the community to explain how we can be leveraged,” Melanie Plaksin, DispatchHealth’s VP of market growth, told Home Health Care News. “[We want to] minimize the risk of exposure for any of those patient lives that we touch, allowing people to ultimately recover safely at home and reduce strain on our health care system.”
DispatchHealth typically treats common ailments such as asthma, dehydration, lacerations and minor orthopedic injuries, among other issues. Additionally, its ER-trained medical team offers a variety of services, including IV fluids and medications, simple wound repair and select laboratory testing.
Its services will now be available to the more than 256,000 BCBSOK members in the Oklahoma City metro area. The partnership, along with Dispatch’s focus on dealing with patients’ primary providers, is a way to reduce the anxieties that come with facing health problems during a public health crisis.
“For BCBSOK’s members, I think it’s a really unique offering and a differentiator because they’re allowing their members to stay at home and have us be a provider that is in network and a part of their health plan and benefit structure,” Plaskin said. “[Also], a big part of Dispatch’s model is that we work really collaboratively with an individual’s primary care provider — we always work as an extension of them.”
Plaskin said that Dispatch always redirects patients back to their PCP after the visit and sends the PCP a summary of what occurred as a way to maintain continuity.
The company’s services are available for BCBSOK members seven days per week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Patients can request care online, either through its website or through its mobile app.
The company is also actively working on obtaining tests, but had not been able to secure them as of April 10.
“We are pleased to offer DispatchHealth to more than 256,000 BCBSOK members in the Oklahoma City metro,” Joseph R. Cunningham, the plan president for BCBSOK, said in a statement. “This mobile unit provides needed medical care access while staying at home and avoiding unnecessary exposure to others.”
Overall, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma provides health care benefit plans for more than 830,000 Oklahomans. It is a division of Health Care Service Corporation — a Mutual Legal Reserve company — and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Broadly, the partnership between DispatchHealth and BCBSOK reflects the growing number of cross-continuum partnerships between payers and providers emerging in light of the COVID-19 virus.