Wake Forest Baptist Health launched its Hospitalist at Home program on Dec. 15, 2020, allowing more patients – both those with and without COVID-19 – to be safely cared for at home, reducing the length of time they spend in the hospital.
This unique approach, which is the first of its kind in the Piedmont Triad region, combines telehealth technology with in-home visits by Wake Forest Baptist paramedics.
As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly presented inpatient capacity challenges at hospitals across the country, Wake Forest Baptist leaders began exploring innovative solutions to provide safe care at home that would have traditionally been provided in the hospital.
A patient who is identified as a candidate for the program first discusses the potential benefits with their health care team and then an in-home care plan is developed with the patient before they leave the hospital.
Once a patient transitions into the Hospitalist at Home program, a Wake Forest Baptist paramedic visits the patient at their home while a hospitalist physician reviews the care plan with the patient and paramedic virtually, using either a smart phone, mobile device or computer with a webcam. Virtual telehealth visits and in-person paramedic visits continue until the patient no longer needs to be monitored.
“This program allows more patients to safely receive the high-quality care they need, in the comfort of their own home, regardless of whether they live in an urban area or a rural community,” said Chi-Cheng Huang, M.D., executive medical director of general medicine and hospital medicine with Wake Forest Baptist Health. “We are grateful to our leaders, our patients and our entire multidisciplinary team for embracing this program and to our Atrium Health colleagues for helping us adapt the successful and existing program in the Charlotte area to our patients in this region of North Carolina.”
Patients involved in the Hospitalist at Home program include those with COVID-19 who are stable but require supplemental oxygen and those with diseases such as congestive heart failure or who require medications administered intravenously.
“We have heard from patients who are so grateful for the ability to be home for their birthday and the holiday season, instead of in a hospital room,” Huang said. “To help them celebrate these special moments, comfortably and safely at home, while also helping alleviate capacity challenges at our hospitals is a success for everyone.”
The Hospitalist at Home program, led by Padageshwar Sunkara, M.D., Raj Nagaraj, M.D., and John Blalock, M.H.A., is currently available to patients who live in Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph counties and provides daytime, evening and weekend coverage.
Since the program began, more than 150 patients have been served, and within a year, the team envisions to be caring for around 75-100 patients at any given time.