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A new program at IU Health allows patients to return to the comfort of their homes after they are discharged from the hospital. They are monitored closely via remote and home visits.
By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Richard Wiegand was diagnosed with COVID-19 he spent a week in IU Health Methodist Hospital. Due to visitor restrictions he wasn’t able to see his wife, Barb, and he was fighting a battle with an illness that was threatening his life.
It was the week before Easter. Wiegand, 61, experienced a low-grade fever and loss of appetite. He dropped 15 pounds and passed out in his home office. His wife called 911. He tested positive for COVID-19.
“At the hospital they put me in a room by myself and monitored me day and night. At one point, my oxygen level dropped to 87,” said Wiegand, of Indianapolis. “It was a scary time.”
Once he was stable and his vitals returned to normal, Wiegand was eager to return home. A new program at IU Health – “Hospital in the Home” – made that wish possible for Wiegand and more than 70 other patients.
The model provides hospital-level care in the comfort of home. Patients connect daily with care teams of doctors and nurses by phone and virtual visits. Before discharge, patients who have a caregiver in the home receive a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and thermometer and measure their vitals three times daily up to 14 days. A nurse provides additional support including education and monitoring.
If a patient’s condition changes – such as a spike in fever, difficulty breathing, drinking, or eating, or a loss of appetite, or chest pain – they are given a number to call and identify themself as an IU Health COVID-19 Telemonitoring patient.
“These patients are not stable enough to be fully discharged, but can be safely treated in their homes. The costs are lower, the patient satisfaction is higher and the outcomes are higher,” said Dr. John Fitzgerald, Senior Vice President of Population Health for IU Health. The Hospital in the Home initiative also helps reduce further exposure to the virus.
Out of 75 patients - monitored days - five returned to the emergency room and one was readmitted, said Fitzgerald. “Patient satisfaction is a priority and overwhelmingly, the patients who are part of the program, welcomed the opportunity to return to their own homes and families,” said Fitzgerald. He added that in the future the program might be used for other patient conditions such as urinary tract infections, soft tissue infections, and dehydration. Each patient will be evaluated case by case, he said.
“It wasn’t difficult to take vitals with my wife’s help,” said Weigand. “I absolutely wanted to get out of the hospital as soon as possible where I could see my sons and grandchildren.