As the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading like wildfire and captured the world’s attention, physicians, nurses and transition personnel at Eskenazi Health were making plans for treating individuals who would be diagnosed with this dangerous and often deadly virus.

Knowing that one of the aspects of COVID-19 is how it severely affects the breathing of those who contract it, the health care professionals at Eskenazi Health decided it was vitally important to continue monitoring a patient’s breathing after they become well enough to return home.

“The Eskenazi Health home monitoring oxygen program is for COVID-19 patients who still require oxygen therapy and have to be on oxygen at home,” said Alisha Jessup, a nursing clinical care manager with Eskenazi Health who helped develop the new system. “Our program is set up to be able to wean patients off of oxygen and monitor them on a daily basis while they’re still battling COVID-19.”

Three Eskenazi Health nurses monitor patients enrolled in the program on a day-to-day basis and are in constant contact with their assigned primary care providers. The nurses keep the physicians apprised on each patient’s readings as they transition them back to unassisted breathing. When the transition is complete the nurses schedule a follow-up appointment for each patient with one of the primary care providers.

“Since the program began in April we’ve had 50 patients referred to the program and successfully weaned 20 off of oxygen,” Jessup said. “Now we’re looking to develop additional monitoring programs for chronic conditions like heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

After building and implementing the program, Eskenazi Health partnered with the Indiana Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA), a group that supports the development of community-oriented primary care initiatives. IPHCA has since shared details of the initiative with other health care organizations looking to develop something similar to Eskenazi Health’s home monitoring oxygen program.

“Another aspect of our program is if we’ve been trying to contact a patient and can’t connect with them, and we’ve also tried their emergency contact with no success, we will then send out a community health worker with a nurse to their home to check to make sure that the patient is OK, and we’ve had to do that a couple of times,” Jessup said. “It’s a program that’s looking at all avenues to assist our patients. We’re also looking to address social needs to make sure they have food because they’re in quarantine and may not be able to go out. Depending on when they were admitted and discharged, they may not have food on hand. For those who need help we refer them to our social workers who arrange food deliveries from our Crooked Creek Food Pantry at Eskenazi Health Center Pecar. We want to do everything possible to ensure that our patient’s basic needs are being met.”

The new Eskenazi Health home oxygen monitoring program has been well received by COVID-19 patients. The initiative has provided them with the comfort of knowing that although they’ve been sent home, they’re far from being alone.

“We have received nothing but great reviews from our patients about this program and they have been fantastic,” Jessup said. “Everyone has fear about being diagnosed with COVID-19, and our patients who have returned home are grateful that we’ve been able to implement a program like this that gives them the reassurance that someone with the hospital is checking on them on a daily basis. We’re always looking to make improvements to the program so we can best accommodate all of our patients and be certain that nothing slips through the cracks.”

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