A handful of patients at the Victoria General Hospital are being treated right in the comfort of their own homes, with nurses and doctors visiting them in a new program called hospital at home.
“Hospital at home put very, very simply is a way that we bring hospital-level care, such as oxygen and IV medications, right into a patient’s home rather than having the patient stay in hospital to receive that care,” said Elisabeth Crisci, a physician and medical co-lead of the program.
It’s a new pilot program being launched on the Island and is part of the province’s $1.6 billion pandemic preparedness plan for the fall and winter. The program has been allocated $42.3 million and if it goes well, hospital at home could be rolled out provincially.
“To build a hospital is profoundly expensive and what we’re offering to do is create hospital beds basically out of thin air,” said Shauna Tierney, another physician and co-lead for the program. “We are temporarily designating people’s bedrooms as a hospital bed.”
This will clear up beds in hospital wards, as physicians and health officials prepare for an influx of patients due to the province’s rising COVID-19 cases.
The need for more beds, Tierney added, already exists in another capacity. Sometimes patients in need of a physician and a hospital bed are left waiting in the emergency room because there aren’t any available beds.
“We can take some of the patients who are currently up on the ward and transfer them off-site and then open up a space for those patients in the emergency room to come up,” Tierney said.
The Victoria General Hospital is starting with nine patients who are eligible for the program: Acutely ill, low risk and with a predictable clinical course to getting better. Other factors include catchment area and confirmed diagnosis.
“Just like in the hospital, we see them everyday,” explained Crisci. “It could be multiple times a day depending on what’s going on.”
About five to 10 per cent of patients requiring hospital care would be eligible for the program. If complications arise, however, the patients have the option to return to the hospital.
“If all else fails . . . the patient can be repatriated to the hospital because they’re still inpatient, they still have their patient ID bracelet, they’re still considered a patient of the hospital,” said Crisci.
Although the idea is new for B.C., it’s not something unheard of. Similar programs in Australia and the U.K. have been successful, according to Crisci and Tierney.
“Oxygen is portable. I’m portable. Vital sign monitoring equipment is portable,” said Tierney, adding that it only makes sense to have a program like this in place here.
Tierney said hospital at home improves patient experience and provides equivalent, if not better, care.
“I like having that level of connection with them,” she explained. “You can just see that the environment is so much more healing for them. It’s so much more patient-centric and all of us are in this business because we care about patients. We want to serve their needs, we don’t want to serve our needs and hospital at home allows us to do that.”