Certain additional patients at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis will soon be allowed to convalesce at home even though they would typically require in-hospital care.
IU Health has announced it is expanding its hospital-at-home program, which allows select patients who are stable, but with serious illnesses to be cared for in their own homes.
The health system launched the program in April for ill COVID-19 patients.
“We had been talking about it before the pandemic,” said Dr. Michele Saysana, vice president of safety, quality, and performance improvement for IU Health. “I think what COVID did for us is help accelerate us actually doing it.”
Saysana says the hospital released COVID patients sooner, who met certain criteria.
“Still on some oxygen, still needed some more monitoring, but probably could do that at home,” said Saysana. “We were able to use more remote monitoring, and our partners, our home nurses.”
IU Health says more than 150 ill COVID-19 patients used the HaH program and had recovery times within expected ranges and few re-admissions.
Starting in November, IU Health is also allowing patients with a limited number of diagnoses to start their recovery at home, while still undergoing remote monitoring with medical staff.
For now, it is limited to certain patients with congestive heart failure, cellulitis, pneumonia, or urinary tract infections.
“We still need our hospitals – this program is not going to replace them. But it can work well for a certain percentage of patients who can be well cared-for at home while keeping hospital beds open for those who require inpatient care,” said Dr. Greg Kiray, IU Health senior vice president for population health.
To participate in the program, patients must be in a safe home environment or have appropriate home support.
They must also have good internet service to support telemonitoring tools in the home, such as blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. This will allow medical staff to check the patient’s vital signs and conditions.
“We have plans in place if a patient takes a turn we don’t expect. We can get them the care they need. That’s built into this as well,” explained Saysana.
With concerns about a new wave of COVID-19, plus the expectation of an influx of influenza patients, Saysana says the HaH program will help ensure beds are available.
“This is part of our surge planning. This will help Methodist give a bed to someone else,” said Saysana. “The COVID hospital at home program helps offload patients to go home sooner.”
IU Health is limiting the program to qualified patients at Methodist. But in the months ahead, the health system plans to expand the program to patients at other IU Health hospitals across the state.
As for who pays, IU Health says initially the expanded program will cover members of IU Health Plans and the IU Health Accountable Care Organization. The health system says in the future it hopes to be able to reach similar agreements with other insurance carriers.
Saysana said the program offers benefits beyond clinical care.