Mobile medical rovers bringing hospital care into homes

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — People in the Tucson area needing a trip to the emergency room now may not even need to leave their living room.

Colorado-based DispatchHealth came to the Old Pueblo in February 2021. The company operates SUVs that serve as medical “rovers.”

In the trunk of each rover: everything from IVs, an electrocardiogram (EKG), antibiotics, blood tests, as well as tests for diseases, including COVID-19.

DispatchHealth can also order x-rays or ultrasounds from local providers to come to a patient’s home.

Nurse practitioner Robyn Green is one of the frontline workers bringing this acute care into Tucsonans’ homes. She says DispatchHealth most often responds to issues like fatigue, weakness, respiratory or heart problems and urinary tract infections.

“Those folks don’t necessarily have to go to the hospital. We can catch them at home before they have to go. And we have lots of options for them,” said Green. “I used to work in the emergency department, and I kept thinking ‘Gosh, I could’ve helped this person before they ever got here.’

“I want the people of Tucson to be healthy and safe, and be where they’re most comfortable, which is at their home.”

Three rovers currently cover most of the Tucson area—from Saddlebrooke to Green Valley and Three Points to Houghton/I-10—with a fourth rover expected in the coming weeks.

According to Green, the company takes medicare and most private insurance. They run 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year. She says they have responded to roughly 2,500 total visits since last February.

The mobile medical service is now teaming up with Tucson Medical Center in order to keep people out of the hospital in the first place, and keep those who leave TMC from needing to come back.

“There’s no real ‘quick’ in medicine anymore. And that’s just kind of the nature of the beast, status post-pandemic.” said Dr. Mansoor Jatoi, a hospitalist and part of the primary team in charge of discharging patients from TMC.

The team works with DispatchHealth to give some higher-risk patients “bridge care” at home, so they can stay home. Jatoi says this is especially helpful for patients with no primary care provider available for follow-ups, or those who have issues with their post-hospital medicine or treatment plan.

“Having a safe discharge plan—and making sure when you come back to the hospital, it’s appropriate and necessary—will prevent a bottleneck from developing in the emergency department,” Jatoi explained.

For that reason, in-home acute care could bring both patients and the healthcare industry some much-needed help.

A DispatchHealth spokesperson says the company currently operates in 46 markets in 27 states, reducing emergency room admissions by 20 percent, on average.

——-
Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing [email protected] or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.