Dispatch Health at forefront of house call resurgence in health care

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino

The pandemic forever changed many aspects of health care, including how we access medical services. But one time-honored practice is making a comeback.

Always on the go, nurse practitioner Kelly McKenna is trained in emergency medicine, but now she’s migrated her workspace from hospitals to homes—making housecalls via Dispatch Health, as many as seven a day.

“We cover all of Lee County,” McKenna said. “Currently, we have two vehicles on the road: the one that starts at 8 a.m. and the other car starts at noon.”

Working alongside a medical assistant, Dispatch delivers in-home treatments for the same ailments that typically send people to urgent care clinics.

“In our modular kits… we can do blood draws and IV fluids,” McKenna said. “For those that are complaining of cough, shortness of breath, we treat COPD exacerbations, pneumonia, we can also provide lab work right in the home with point-of-care testing.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic drove rapid change for health care as people looked for ways to avoid crowds, some health care professionals believe the age-old practice of home calls may be the future of medical visits.

“It’s been really well-received by the public,” said Cindy Drapal, system director for Lee Health. “We’ve had it open for about 20-plus weeks, and they have had over 1,100 visits. In fact, we’re expanding the number of vehicles that are available to the community.”

Drapal oversees the program as part of a partnership with Lee Health. The health care system was eager to alleviate congestion and long wait times at its clinics and emergency rooms.

“It’s definitely a great alternative for people that either can’t get an appointment right away at their primary care office or are trying to go out to the offices where there are sick people,” Drapal said.

Treating people in the comfort of their own homes expands the concept of convenient care. This trend is reflected nationwide with huge growth in at-home services. Average visits last between 45 minutes to an hour.

“When I would discharge patients home, I didn’t realize what they were going home to, or maybe the limitations that they have to receive food or medications delivered to them, things like that, so I feel like it’s encompassing the entire patient to be able to treat everything,” McKenna said. “Because their waiting room is their living room.”

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