Geisinger Health System has put together a program to monitor COVID-19 patients in their homes, using basic tech tools available to virtually any health system.
According to an article in FierceHealthcare, Geisinger set up the program to see that patients testing positive for the virus are tracked and cared for without their undergoing needless primary care or ED visits.
To participate, patients can use either an app-based system available through Epic’s MyChart Care Companion or a telephonic app addressing their specific needs. MyChart Care Companion offers access to physician care plans and helps patients follow the plan, in part by providing medication reminders, health tracking tasks, and access to periodic check-ins.
As part of the initiative, Geisinger sends patients discharged from inpatient or outpatient care back with a home care kit including masks and other items that can help them manage their condition.
If the patient is at risk for significant complications, the care package also includes a pulse oximeter, digital thermometer and acetaminophen. In providing the acetaminophen, the health system offers an extra level of support for patients, many of whom buy the medication in their local pharmacy when they return home after COVID care.
Within 24 hours of being enrolled in the program, a nurse contacts the patient to offer additional help on how to manage the virus and make good use of the tools they have been given.
Patients who receive the oximeter and thermometer use them to collect daily updates on their symptoms to nurses. Geisinger also surveys patients via the app to screen for other COVID-19-related symptoms.
The program includes safeguards that kick things into higher gear if the patient begins to deteriorate. If a patient’s self-reported symptoms get worse, the system sends an automated alert to a nurse. The nurse will call the patient within 10 minutes to triage their symptoms.
Depending on how the patient is doing, the nurse can transition the patient quickly into a video consult with a physician or route them to emergency care if needed.
So far, Geisinger has completed about 15,000 telephone check-ins and has collected 400 to 500 survey entries on COVID-19 patients via its app. Health leaders are encouraging patients to complete surveys and symptom checks by sending out patient notifications and embedding badges within the app.
Though the program is new, it’s already helped multiple patients avoid unneeded interventions. For example, when one patient reported shortness of breath – and the pulse oximeter backed up these concerns – Geisinger addressed the problem by putting oxygen into the patient’s home rather than directing them to hospital care.
That being said, the program seems to be having less-measurable benefits as well. Ben Hohmuth, M.D., chief medical informatics officer at Geisinger, told FierceHealthcare that this effort also helps reduce the anxiety patients feel after being diagnosed with COVID-19. “Having some point of contact on a daily basis alleviates that,” he said.