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House call comeback? Doctors providing health care on demand

Posted at 5:07 PM, Nov 15, 2017

If you thought doctors making house calls was a thing of the past, check this out: They may be more relevant now than ever before. 

It starts with a call for help. But the responders aren't caped crusaders, and they are not riding in the Batmobile. Still, those who need their help would say they are saving the day.  

Pam Womack and Dan Eppelsheimer are with DispatchHealth; on demand urgent care at your house. On a recent house call, they visited Lee Armstrong, whose gout made it nearly impossible to make it to the doctor.  

"Is it this toe?" Womack asks. "Yes," Armstrong replies. "Right there where I'm touching?" Womack confirms.  

After evaluating him, Womack was able to give Armstrong a dose of medication on the spot.  

"Okay I'm going to print you up some instructions here," Womack says.  

He was relieved.  

"It's a shame that you can be so sick that you can't travel," Armstrong said. "I couldn't hardly walk to the door in there. I really appreciate it. I really do."  

"I like going into the home with the patients," Womack said. "And seeing the challenges they might have in the home that if you came into the emergency room you might not see."  

"People would come to the emergency department just for simple things like that which we can do quickly and easily at their own home," says Phil Mitchell, an ER physician and Medical Director at DispatchHealth.

Dr. Mitchell said that experience is a catalyst for the work dispatch health does.

Nationwide, 50 percent of emergency rooms operate at or above capacity. And every year 500,000 ambulances are diverted away from the closest hospital due to ER overcrowding.

"How do we provide more value for patients?" Mitchell says. "How to we decrease 911 transports and how do we decrease emergency medicine and emergency department visits for patients that don't really need to be in that high level of care."  

From gout to a common cold, no need is too small. And the company says on average it's about 80 percent more affordable than a visit to the emergency room.

There is an ongoing effort to streamline service and provide care where it's most comfortable.

Right now, DispatchHealth operates in Colorado, Arizona, and Virginia and is continuing to expand nationwide with new operations scheduled to open in Las Vegas this year.