Pandemic Moves Home Health Care to Forefront
Long before we all learned of the coronavirus and the fear of overflowing hospitals, Avera invested in a unique branch of health care. With an eye toward the future, Avera@Home allows patients to recover at home and is also proven to save on costs.
The home health care branch of Avera proved to be even more valuable when COVID-19 hit as people with symptoms were asked to stay home. Up to 1,400 patients were being monitored at home at any one time during the peak of COVID. This helped keep people out of the hospital while still getting needed care.
“There are few silver linings in the COVID-19 story, but this could be one,” said Rhonda Wiering, Vice President of Clinical Growth and Innovation with Avera@Home. “We had the capacity to serve our hospitals in their time of need because we’d prepared.”
Moving forward, the goal is to continue giving patients what they want: access to care in their homes without the loss that needed connection.
“The future is here, and in the face of an extremely frightening illness, we provided human connections that helped reduce anxiety,” Wiering said. “Our service keeps evolving and it provides a lower-cost approach to ensure people get treatment they need in a comfortable setting.”
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How At-Home Care Fit Pandemic Needs Perfectly
As the pandemic began, Avera leaders needed to keep people out of the hospitals and emergency rooms if possible.
Throughout the pandemic, more than 6,000 COVID-19 patients received care at home via virtual methods, including phone, text and video chat interactions. Many would have been hospitalized otherwise.
Avera@Home teams helped in many ways:
- Providing follow-up care for patients after they left hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms.
- Setting patients up with important medical equipment, including oxygen.
- Supporting patients with ongoing – often daily – virtual visits or phone calls.
- Virtual monitoring of vital signs for at-home patients.
This daily connection, even when virtual, gave patients confidence to continue their recovery at home.
Increasing Home Care Access
As new COVID variants arise and the need for home care ebbs and flows, Avera@Home continues to evolve.
“We’re continuing to learn, and that’s critical,” said Sandy Dieleman, President and CEO of Avera@Home. “At-home care, when applied with skill and paired with technology, can multiply the care our health system offers, as well as extend its reach and strengthen its support.”
Other care offerings, like the newly launched Hospital@Home program at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, could provide right-sized attention to a population in need. It’s a nontraditional at-home hospital-level care model that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently approved under a public health emergency waiver.
It’s tailored to patients who face specific challenges, such as congestive heart failure, kidney infection or cellulitis. Patients receive all services they would if they were in a regular hospital bed, including food, transportation for imaging, X-rays, lab work, daily nurse visits and virtual doctors’ rounds.
This program is in addition to other services available ranging from traditional home health services for sick or injured patients to hospice care.
Learn more at AveraAtHome.org.