ST. LOUIS – As COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, there is significant demand for hospital beds. To address this need, Mercy is tapping into its Mercy Virtual expertise to care for select COVID-19 patients at home.
Mercy COVID Care @ Home will offer remote, in-home care for patients with mild symptoms who may need low-flow rates of oxygen, offering virtual home monitoring in real time. This 24-hour care will include measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry, adjusting oxygen flow as necessary, along with additional evaluations and appropriate interventions.
“We have learned that not all patients who were admitted at the onset of COVID-19 need to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Carter Fenton, medical director of Mercy Virtual vAcute. “By caring for select patients at home, with ongoing monitoring and management, we can reserve the hospital beds for those with more serious disease symptoms.”
If the status of any patient changes during monitoring or symptoms worsen, patients will be evaluated by the Mercy Virtual team and directed to the most appropriate level of care. An emergency medicine physician will help determine the type of care the patient needs – from an in-home visit, evaluation in one of the outpatient clinic offerings or the hospital setting.
“Providing the opportunity for care in different settings is extremely important - for both the patients as well as our medical teams,” Dr. Fenton said. “The challenging part for patients is determining their needs and our Mercy Virtual providers will help them through that process.”
Much more is understood about COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, from new therapies to best practices, and health systems across the country are learning from each other. Mercy worked with Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider, to gain insight from its experience of setting up a similar program during the first surge in the spring. Northwell Health was able to provide care with equal or better outcomes in an at-home setting.
Mercy Virtual’s care team has been caring for chronically ill patients since 2015 with the goal of keeping patients comfortable at home and out of the hospital.
“We’re able to take our five years of experience in providing virtual, in-home care and translate it into caring for COVID-19 patients,” added Dr. Gavin Helton, Mercy Virtual president. “We hope by caring for certain COVID-19 patients in their homes, it will make them more comfortable and still connected to care, while lightening the load on hospital caregivers and in-patient resources.”
Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems for four consecutive years by IBM Watson Health, serves millions annually. Mercy is one of the nation’s most highly integrated, multi-state health care systems, including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, more than 4,000 Mercy Clinic physicians and advanced practitioners and 40,000-plus co-workers serving patients and families across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy's IT division, Mercy Technology Services, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients from coast to coast.