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Samaritan Uses Technology, Home Health to Monitor At-Home COVID-19 Patients

Published on: February 4, 2021

WATERTOWN, NY – Samaritan Medical Center is piloting a program that allows patients with less severe cases of COVID-19 to recover at home with the help of remote monitoring and follow-up care.

When patients arrive at Samaritan’s Emergency Department and they are COVID-19 positive, they are assessed according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) severity scale. The goal of the pilot program, which began January 10, is to treat patients on the low end of this scale at home, obviating the need for hospital admission.

Patients who qualify for the program are discharged home with a medical-grade pulse oximeter – which monitors oxygen saturation levels – as well as detailed instructions and a follow-up appointment with a physician within 48 hours. As of January 27th, at-home COVID-19 monitored patients are referred to the Samaritan Home Health COVID program. This program includes a robust Samaritan Home Health team, including nurses and therapists, who provide full home health benefits and direct access to a registered nurse (RN) for these COVID-positive patients. Samaritan Home Health attempts to begin services for these patients the day after the initial Emergency Department visit and, depending on symptoms, the team may see the patient daily until they begin follow-up telehealth visits with a provider.

Patients also receive a number to call in case their symptoms worsen or if they receive a low pulse oximeter reading. A real person is always available to answer this call and, depending on the time of day and nature of the call, the patient will receive a STAT telemedicine visit or a referral to the Emergency Department.

So far, at least 23 patients have taken part in the pilot program and just 3 have called with worsening symptoms and been readmitted to the hospital. Dr. Benjamin Rudd, Family Medicine Program Director, said these results are very encouraging.

“This means that a majority of patients who might have been taking up hospital beds were effectively able to stay home and recover from COVID-19,” he said. “Not only does this take pressure off the hospital to ensure it has enough bed capacity for more severe cases, but it also allows the patient to stay in a more familiar, comfortable setting.”

As with any pilot program, Samaritan will continue to track results and patients outcomes, fine tuning how available staff can work together to help COVID-positive patients recover quickly in the comfort of their homes.

“Not only does this take pressure off the hospital to ensure it has enough bed capacity for more severe cases, but it also allows the patient to stay in a more familiar, comfortable setting.”

Dr. Benjamin Rudd, Samaritan Family Medicine Program Director