SHA piloting program in Regina where some COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen therapy can recover at home

Shane Hill is among the registered therapists working in acute care who provides COVID-positive patients on oxygen with instruction about the monitoring program before they leave the hospital. Submitted photo.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has expanded a program that provides home-based monitoring of patients with COVID-19 to include patients who require oxygen therapy but are otherwise able to go home.

Two COVID-19 units at Regina General Hospital began piloting the change to the Home Health Monitoring Program on April 15.

Potential clients must be over the age of 16, stable on oxygen and requiring no more than three litres of oxygen per minute or who are stable and weaning from oxygen for 24 hours or more. They can’t have other acute, unstable medical conditions and must be deemed safe for discharge, must agree to the support and be able to manage independently at home.

Once a client is identified for the service, the hospital calls a respiratory therapist who provides the patient with an oxygen monitor, instructions on use and information about the Home Healthy Oxygen Monitoring Program. The client will also receive a visit from a home oxygen company representative who gives them a tank to take home and meets them at their home to set them up.

“This expansion of the original program is ensuring patients get the right care in the right place while freeing up much-needed beds for other very sick people,” said Amy Reid, a primary health care manager for the Regina area in a story posted to the SHA website Monday.

“The service affords a safe discharge for clients who still need to be monitored while supporting acute care as it experiences a surge in the number of high acuity COVID-19 clients,” said Reid.

Once the client is at home, they’re assessed by an intermediate care service provider and enrolled in the program, which is available through an app on their phone or computer. They’re also taught how to use the app.

Each day, they go into the app and answer a series of questions about their health and well-being.

“There are questions about whether the client is having breathing difficulties, chest pain, experiencing confusion, what their temperature is, medications and etcetera. The client records their vitals, such as oxygen saturation and heart rate. If the client is isolating, and if they have concerns about meeting their family’s basic needs, the Health Network will connect clients to other services. Do they have enough food? Medications? Stable housing?” Reid explained.

The care provider monitors the client daily through the app. Depending on responses, they will get a follow-up visit, help from other community services or an in-person visit from a doctor.

Outside of regular business hours, community providers and physicians through the Doctors Assisting Seniors and Homes (DASH) program can address clients’ urgent concerns.

As of April 21, eight people were participating in the service.

“We are seeing many patient and health system benefits including reduced transmission, reducing ER visits and emergent situations due to regular monitoring, and reducing capacity pressures on ER and hospital services,” said Michelle Mula, SHA’s executive director of digital health.

“Through innovative programs and providers such as this one, we’ve had close to 4,000 patients monitored using home health monitoring and over 400,000 virtual clinical consultations using PexIP (a virtual care consultation platform).”