WORCESTER — Setting up a hospital or emergency room at home can be more comfortable for some patients, according to clinical data, and hospitalization at home can effectively reduce readmission and the mortality rate by about 20% to 30% for selected patients with mild conditions.
UMass Memorial Medical Center recently launched a new program, Hospital at Home, that provides real-time insight into patient health and coordinates in-home 24/7 clinical care.
The services offered through the program include in-home nursing care, telemedicine care with doctors, virtual vital-sign monitoring, delivery of food and supplies, oxygen checks and more.
Thad Stappenbeck, 78, enrolled in the program last week when he tested positive for COVID-19. He was impressed with the monitors and equipment brought to his home that allowed him to be treated at home in a hospital-like environment.
“It was much better than being in a hospital. Hospitals can be very intimidating places,” Stappenbeck said. “I think it makes a real difference just being able to be in a setting that you’re comfortable with.”
Stappenbeck had nursing care twice a day and a video telemedicine visit with the doctor once a day.
The decision to launch the Hospital at Home program was in response to the increasing patient need for acute hospital services and limited bed capacity at the hospital in particular, according to Constantinos Michaelidis, Hospital at Home medical director at UMass Memorial.
The other reassuring aspect for the program, Michaelidis said, is to reduce risks of delirium and hospital-acquired infections that occur often on those most vulnerable patient populations.
“Hospital at Home actually allows us to provide all the same services they would receive in (a) brick-and-mortar hospital, but all of those services are instead brought to the home,” Michaelidis said. “So it kind of lets us build almost virtual beds in the patient’s home.”
Also, patients are provided with a call button in their home in case of any emergency, with nurses and a doctor on standby.
Often conditions with low rates of complications would generally be appropriate for Hospital at Home.
First, a physician and a nurse in the emergency department evaluates a patient’s conditions. After testing for eligible conditions such as COVID-19, pneumonia, influenza, heart failure exacerbations, as well as some skin and soft-tissue infections, patients could qualify for in-home treatment.
A home safety screen of their home should be passed as well, such as having running water and electricity, Michaelidis said.
“The home essentially has to be a safe environment for them to receive care, and then once they pass those home safety screens, we can then offer them admission to Hospital at Home,” he said.