Hospital at Home Program Expands to All Virtua Health Hospitals
Eligible patients have the option to heal from home with comprehensive remote monitoring
December 7, 2022 - Virtua Health’s Hospital at Home program—an innovative initiative that allows eligible patients to heal from the comfort of their home rather than in a hospital—is now incorporated at all five Virtua hospitals. Since its launch in January 2022 at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, this program has proven successful in helping more than 200 patients achieve excellent medical outcomes while delivering a highly favorable experience.
“The response to the Hospital at Home program—from the medical staff and from patients and their families—has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Kristin Bloom, a nurse by training who serves as assistant vice president of the program. “In many ways, Hospital at Home patients feel more empowered about their own health and healing.”
While each person’s plan-of-care is specific to that individual, every participant experiences hospital-level care from home, including:
- Twice-daily visits from Hospital at Home staff
- Remote monitoring using a variety of Virtua-issued devices
- Routine remote consultations with a physician or other licensed provider
- Around-the-clock support from the Hospital at Home Command Center
- Easy-to-heat nutritious meals, if requested
- Relevant clinical and ancillary services that would otherwise be provided in the hospital, such as imaging, pharmacy, lab, and physical therapy
Bloom says that, like many national studies of this care delivery model, Virtua has seen many beneficial outcomes to date. First, the duration of a Hospital-at-Home session tends to be shorter than the standard hospital admission. Additionally, there is a decreased likelihood of readmission, an increase in patient and family satisfaction, and it allows for the preservation of inpatient resources for those who are most ill.
“I see Hospital at Home as a key component in health care’s ongoing evolution,” she said.
The Patient Experience
Joseph Chiappa, 83, of Mount Laurel, N.J., woke up on September 26, 2022, coughing and having trouble breathing. On his doctor’s recommendation, Joseph went to the emergency department at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, where he was evaluated, diagnosed with COVID-19, and placed in isolation.
His physicians determined that he was a candidate for the Hospital at Home program and gave him the option of receiving treatment either as a hospital inpatient or at home with medical monitoring and daily home visits by medical professionals.
“I was relieved. Honestly, the idea of remaining in the hospital in isolation was not very appealing to me,” said Joseph. “The medical staff who came to my home couldn’t do enough for me. I received the best hospital care at home from the most wonderful people. I felt totally cared for—I can’t say enough about the staff and the Hospital at Home program.”
For several days, a Hospital at Home nurse visited Joseph twice a day. In addition, technicians came to draw blood for lab work, administer oxygen and intravenous anti-viral treatments. Virtua provided all the medical monitoring equipment needed to properly care for Joseph in his home, including the tablet used for secure video consultations with his physicians.
“My recovery was much easier at home. I never felt apprehensive because I knew that medical professionals were taking excellent care of me,” explained Joseph. “They were very responsible with my care. I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to fully recuperate at home.”
How It Works
Like Joseph, the first patients invited to participate in Hospital at Home were those recuperating from COVID-19 whose physicians determined that their treatment could safely transition from the inpatient setting to the person’s home. Since then, the program has expanded to patients representing more than 30 distinct medical conditions, including respiratory infections, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), urinary tract infections (UTI), gastrointestinal problems, and congestive heart failure.
Patients identified as Hospital at Home candidates must meet certain medical criteria. Virtua will provide and install the technology in the patients’ homes that is needed for participation in the program. Participation in the program is not mandatory.
“The equipment that empowers Hospital at Home was simply not available five or more years ago,” said Michael Capriotti, senior vice president of integration and strategic operations for Virtua Health. “Now, we can safely provide high-acuity care remotely. Even though the patients are not within our walls, we are just as connected.”
All Virtua Hospital at Home patients wear an armband that tracks vital health information and relays it in real time to a skilled team of registered nurses. These nurses are stationed at a “command center” that provides 24/7 monitoring and support.
“We track our patients’ heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen levels, body temperature, and more,” Capriotti said. “We also provide our patients with additional Bluetooth-enabled devices, including a blood-pressure cuff, spirometer, and a tablet. Should we need to reach them, or they need to reach us, it’s as simple as pressing a button.”
In addition to leveraging the latest technology, Hospital at Home also embraces the time-honored notion of “house calls.” All patients receive twice-daily visits from Virtua staff, who will often invite the patient’s family to be part of the consultation and contribute to the conversation.
The Future of Health Care
As technology advances, the flexible delivery of care through the Hospital at Home model will expand to even more patients. In fact, Virtua’s new Primary Care Telehealth practice offers a “telehealth first” approach to care by providing patients with access to board-certified primary care physicians who are experts in delivering care online—another example of Virtua making health care accessible to everyone.
“For several years, Virtua has challenged itself to orient to the consumer and transform its delivery models,” said Capriotti. “It’s incredible that, in certain cases, rather than have people come to us, we bring care to them.”