While the coronavirus has strained the U.S. health care system, it has also helped divert tens of millions of dollars into the in-home care space.
DispatchHealth is the latest example of that trend.
On Tuesday, Denver, Colorado-based DispatchHealth announced it landed $135.8 million in growth capital, with Optum Ventures leading the Series C round. Since launching in 2013, DispatchHealth has raised more than $216.8 million in total.
Dr. Mark Prather, the co-founder and CEO of DispatchHealth, said his company will use the new funding to expand its markets, add additional talent and further diversify its service mix.
With increased demand due to COVID-19, accomplishing those goals is more important than ever.
“Our focus is on the high medical-needs and high social-needs patients,” Prather told Home Health Care News. “That person is exactly the most vulnerable patient with COVID-19. So our model has been in high demand to be able to service those patients in a safe environment, as opposed to bringing them into [a facility], where they may be exposed.”
Under its business model, DispatchHealth brings an array of health care services into patients’ homes, allowing them to avoid costly hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room. After patients — or the organizations caring for them — request in-home care services through DispatchHealth’s mobile app or website, the company then sends one of its care teams into the home to assess the situation and deliver appropriate treatment.
Those teams normally arrive within two hours. Examples of the services DispatchHealth provides include delivering IV fluids for an older adult dealing with dehydration or intervening with cardiology-focused care when somebody is experiencing congestive heart failure exacerbations.
Originally, DispatchHealth made its mark doing in-home urgent care. It has expanded its offerings over the past few years, however, most recently by rolling out a dedicated hospital-at-home program.
“Our focus has been on developing a platform that is designed to orchestrate and deliver complex medical care in the home,” Prather said. “The first obvious piece for us was on-demand, high-acuity, almost ER-like interventions in the home. But then, as we’ve rolled that out across the country, it became clear to us that there was an opportunity with many of our partners to, in a sense, elongate an episode. For many patients, they might be homebound and better served in the home.”
A visit with DispatchHealth costs roughly the same as a walk-in urgent care visit, with most patients paying anywhere from $5 to $50 after factoring in their insurance coverage. For those without an insurance plan that contracts with DispatchHealth, the company charges a flat rate of $275 at the time of treatment.
DispatchHealth works with several large health systems, provider groups and insurers, including commercial, Medicare Advantage (MA) and managed Medicaid plans, as well as traditional Medicare and Medicaid.
“DispatchHealth is extending health care beyond traditional facilities to the most accessible environment of all: the patient’s home,” Larry C. Renfro, managing partner of Optum Ventures, said in a statement. “We are excited to continue partnering with DispatchHealth to drive value and outcomes for the industry.”
In addition to Optum Ventures, DispatchHealth’s Series C round included participation from existing investors Alta Partners, Questa Capital and Echo Health Ventures. It also included backing by new investors Oak HC/FT, Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and other strategic backers.
Receiving support from health insurance giant Humana underscores the success that DispatchHealth’s model has seen over the past few years.
Humana has been one of the more active health insurers in terms of building a home presence, reflected in its Kindred at Home and Humana At Home business lines — and also now in its latest investment.
“Home is increasingly the place where people prefer to receive their care. This is especially true for older adults with multiple chronic conditions,” Susan Diamond, segment president of Humana’s home business, said in a statement. “We believe DispatchHealth’s clinical delivery model can improve the overall patient experience and health outcomes by allowing people to remain comfortable at home while also empowering the medical team to more easily identify patient needs than they can in a clinical setting.”
Overall, DispatchHealth has grown its patient volume by 100% to 200% every year since 2013, according to Prather.
It’s on pace to meet or exceed that range again in 2020, despite disruption tied to the spread of the coronavirus.
Unlike some of its in-home care peers, DispatchHealth was prepared for many of the challenges COVID-19 brought with it, including heightened infection control procedures, Prather said.
“We came from a health system background, so infection control is core to what we do,” he said. “We were lucky in that we were able to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for our [care providers] fairly early on. We have instituted the most aggressive infection control protocols I’ve ever seen.”
DispatchHealth has seen several thousand patients with COVID-19 or related symptoms since the beginning of march, the CEO noted.
In the near term, the company plans to “soon” be in 20 markets serving roughly 200,000 patients across more than a dozen states.
While growing and adding to its service offerings, DispatchHealth will also eye new strategic partnerships, including ones with home health providers.
“I think we’re in a position to look for partners,” Prather said. “We’ve gotten big enough to really look at partners that would help us round out that continuum of care in the home. So that’s another focus that we’ll have over the course of the next year.”
Apart from DispatchHealth, other recent investments within the in-home care space include the $9.5 million that training platform CareAcademy announced on June 11.