COVID-19 home monitoring program keeps patients connected

Thermometers, oxygen monitors and twice-daily check-ins have saved lives

A nurse talks on a phone while wearing a mask and gloves

In the spring of 2020, Sanford Health announced a new way to keep tabs on COVID-positive patients.

Since then, the COVID-19 home monitoring program has done exactly what it was created to do: safely connect patients with providers.

After a patient tests positive for COVID-19 and their health care provider recommends the program, they’ll be enrolled.

“The program provides a patient real-time access to a registered nurse at Sanford, who can help them with their questions as it relates to their COVID diagnosis,” says Nicole Zoerink, Sanford Health nursing director of clinical call center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The program works by sending My Chart messages to patients on a daily basis, asking questions about temperature, oxygen level and symptoms. If patients don’t have access to a variety of recovery devices, such as a thermometer or oxygen saturation monitors, Sanford Health will provide them. If providers are concerned about any of the answers, they get on the phone for a consultation.

“At the highest point, we were monitoring close to 300 patients with eight registered nurses,” says Zoerink. “Currently, we have four to five nurses monitoring 125-150 patients per day.”

‘It’s been a big success’

Zoerink says the program has been a success. It’s allowed both providers and patients the ability to closely monitor symptoms. She says nurses call patients twice a day to see how they’re doing.

The program has offered patients both physical and mental support, she adds.

“We had a gentleman with chronic conditions contract COVID. He was in our home monitoring program and told us he was so impressed, and felt so supported. He wrote us a beautiful letter thanking us, and ended up donating to our employee assistance fund.

“It was really amazing for us to hear his story. How he felt so supported, and he knew he had a lifeline if he needed anything.”

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Abby Kuper is the nursing inpatient manager for the Sanford Health clinical call center.

She says in many instances, the program truly has served as a lifeline.

“A patient’s oxygen saturations were getting quite low. The home monitoring nurse did what they could over the phone, to help this person through the episode they were experiencing at the time.

“They ended up triaging them to the emergency department. When they got there, the oxygen saturations were lower than they were reading at home, and they ended up being admitted back into the hospital,” she said.

Needed more than ever

With COVID-19 cases being high in many Sanford Health communities, Kuper and Zoerink say this program is more important now than ever, because oftentimes it’s a patient’s only point of contact.

“A lot of these patients don’t have a support system outside of their health care team. So, maybe they live alone, or have transportation issues, those kinds of things. We work through a lot of that with them, as far as just being their support system.

“Some of the people don’t have anyone that they can reach out to. So, our twice a day calls to them are pretty huge and very important,” said Zoerink.

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She says patients are enrolled in the home monitoring program by their health care provider, if they meet certain criteria.

“Ideally, patients that are enrolled in the program are higher risk populations, so elderly or people with chronic health conditions. Patients that might not be needing to be admitted to the hospital right now, but may have a worsening course of COVID-19. ”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Rural Health

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