Easing the COVID-19 capacity crunch
Though many heard the term “social distancing” for the first time only recently, for months, government and medical officials across the country have been bracing for an influx of COVID-19 patients that could overwhelm health care systems.
The severity and highly contagious nature of coronavirus patients needing admittance into hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) meant health care systems were looking for ways to continue to treat non-COVID patients—those with symptoms stemming from acute illnesses such as asthma, congestive heart failure and pneumonia—while freeing up critical bed space and supplies for the anticipated surge in the very sickest COVID-19 patients.
They knew where to turn: Home Recovery Care (HRC). For patients eligible for inpatient hospital care, but who are not critically ill, HRC offers coordinated, high-quality care from the comfort of home.
We recently spoke with Travis Messina, CEO of Contessa Home Recovery Care to learn how the company adapted its model in a matter of days to move non-COVID patients out of the hospital and into their homes for the remainder of their care, freeing up much-needed bed space and resources.
It seems as though we were all caught a bit unprepared for this pandemic. How was Contessa able to react quickly to meet the needs of hospital partners in this time of crisis?
A partner health system in New York reached out to us in early March—before elective procedures had been put on hold—as it was becoming clear the city was emerging as a hot spot for the virus. They feared a capacity crisis and, within 10 days of the initial outreach, we started moving non-COVID patients out of the hospital to receive treatment at home. After initially moving non-COVID patients, we were able to evolve our approach to include home care for coronavirus patients once they were stabilized, further alleviating capacity issues.
We were part of the disaster preparedness plan for the expected surge and needed to move quickly to accommodate the rapidly moving virus.
How are you able to provide hospital-level care from home?
Unless a patient is in the ICU, even in a hospital setting they are not getting constant care. Typically, a nurse makes rounds every three to four hours. Through a combination of virtual technology and mobile care teams made up of hospital-qualified nurses, we are able to provide the same level of care with the added comfort of home and reduced risk of infection from hospitalization. Should a patient deteriorate, our technology alerts us, and we are quickly able to activate our mobile teams for on-site treatment.
In fact, our staffing ratios typically provide more caregivers per patient than a hospital, providing more one-on-one care.
We keep hearing about “flattening the curve.” Isn’t this intended to prevent hospitals from reaching these crisis levels where demand for beds and medical supplies far exceeds capacity?
Even with adequate capacity, there is still a desire to keep non-COVID patients out of the hospital to avoid exposing them unnecessarily to the coronavirus as well as other dangerous infections or complications. We are currently working with hospitals in hot spots, as well as those in lesser impacted areas.
What are some lessons learned from this?
This virus hit us unlike anything we have seen before, and the ability of clinicians to become comfortable with new care models in a time of crisis is significant. We see it in the embracing of telehealth more broadly speaking, but also in more complex care. COVID-19 greatly accelerated the adoption curve for many.
Even after this pandemic, we expect to see hospital systems continue to rely on the HRC delivery model as it offers increased comfort and better outcomes for patients, as well as a more efficient allocation of resources.
Contessa Home Recovery Care is funded in part by BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, L.P., a corporate venture fund licensed by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. The fund invests in promising emerging companies of strategic relevance to Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. These companies are bringing creative, cutting-edge solutions to the health care marketplace.