In November 2020, Jessica Rael, 27, was diagnosed with COVID-19, which soon led her to seek medical care. Within a week of discovering she had the virus, she began to feel very weak and short of breath. So, Rael traveled the 30 minutes from her home in Hatch, New Mexico, a rural community, to a hospital in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The clinical team there gave her a prescription to treat her symptoms. They also enrolled her in Electronic Caregiver’s COVID to Home program before she left the hospital. Why? Because the COVID to home program saves lives and frees up hospital beds.
COVID to Home
This public offering is a solution to rising COVID-19 cases and limited resources in Doña Ana County, New Mexico. The program saves lives by providing remote care to recovering COVID-19 patients while freeing up hospital beds. Furthermore, the program is funded by Doña Ana County and the city of Las Cruces at no cost to patients.
For Rael, being enrolled in the COVID to Home program gave her peace of mind. “I was scared to go back home,” she admitted. “But I felt like I was OK and at ease knowing that with the program, someone was there for me…If I needed anything, I could call the physicians or contact emergency services, and they would get help for me.”
Remote Patient Monitoring
Under the program, COVID-19 patients get sent to their home or a designated hotel with Electronic Caregiver’s Pro Health. The Pro Health is a Precision Remote Patient Monitoring (PRPM) smart health hub with vitals tracking and voice technology. Patients monitor their COVID-19 symptoms by inputting vitals information from a connected pulse oximeter, non-contact thermometer, and blood pressure cuff. Clinical volunteers and staff use a HIPAA-compliant secure web portal to assess patient results remotely and provide care as needed. Additionally, patients can use the Pro Health for medication reminders and 24/7 emergency response at the touch of a button.
Moreover, clinicians regularly call patients in the program to personally check in on their physical and mental health. For example, Rael received a call from a clinician twice a day while in the program. “They would check on me over the phone just to make sure my vitals were OK and that I wasn’t going to get worse,” she explained. “So, they did their part, and I just had to maintain my medication that I had to take with COVID.” Also, the clinician checking in on her asked Rael if she needed counseling services. “I had panic attacks at night and anxiety because of COVID,” Rael said. “I really felt like my life was going to end with COVID.”
Ultimately, without the convenience of living near a hospital, Rael is thankful COVID to Home is available in her county. “We really don’t have any hospitals [in Hatch] – just a Ben Archer Health Center,” she said. “It would have been hard to go back and forth until I got better. So, I think this program really did help a lot.”
Saving Lives and Freeing up Hospital Beds
Since COVID to Home launched in November 2020, it has helped hundreds of people in Rael’s situation. Currently, MountainView Regional Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center in Doña Ana County offer the program. As of early February 2021, more than 225 people had received services and support through the program. As a result, the COVID to Home program has saved lives and this has freed up 60 percent of the region’s hospital beds. “And I can tell you, we are at the point that we have one bed available,” said Dr. John Andazola.
Dr. Andazola is the Program Director of the Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency Program at Memorial Medical Center. “Had this program not existed, many of those people would not have received any care. And they are at risk for really bad outcomes,” he said. “I think building a structure where we can treat people at home, so the higher resource needs are available to those who need it, is really what this program has demonstrated.”
The program not only frees up hospital resources for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms but others with serious medical conditions. “That’s what’s happening in other parts of the country. COVID is overwhelming the systems,” said Electronic Caregiver Digital Health Integration Officer Mark Francis. “So, folks who have other needs can’t get in to see the doctor or get treatment. More tragically, are folks have COVID that is very acute in terms of needing support, and they’re left in limbo. There’s no place for them to go. In either case, the healthcare needs in those communities are underserved.”
Positive Consequences include Cost Savings
In addition to saving lives, COVID to Home is saving local hospitals money. According to the peer-reviewed healthcare journal “Health Affairs,” treating someone with COVID costs about $14,000 for a 10-day inpatient regimen. Comparatively, this is a 30-day program that costs about $300. “So, we’re providing support for somebody over a 30-day basis for 1/50th of the cost of a 10-day inpatient stay,” Francis said. “And we’re delivering outcomes to help people deal with COVID, recover from COVID, and then successfully reengage in the community.”
A Patient Speaks out about the Dona Ana County collaborative
Rachel Anaya, 55, an Electronic Caregiver employee living in Las Cruces, said this program is invaluable to the region. Anaya had first-hand experience with the program after she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early January. While infected, she had flu-like symptoms which later turned into severe body aches and low oxygen levels.
Without being a participant, Anaya said she believes her symptoms could have led to a much worse outcome. But the program’s PRPM and clinical support services helped her keep her health in check. “I think that’s why the COVID to Home program is so important,” Anaya said. “Because you can tell the doctor what’s going on. They ask you questions, and you work through it with them.”
After her COVID-19 journey, Anaya hopes the program gets replicated in other parts of the state and the country. “If there’s no program like this in your community, you’re just going to go home and lie there, not knowing what to do,” she said. “All they do is tell you, ‘If you feel any worse, go to the ER.’”
In conclusion, Anaya said COVID to Home offers a chance to save someone’s life if their COVID-19 symptoms become life-threatening. “We can stop so much of that with one box (the Pro Health), a thermometer, and pulse oximeter,” Anaya said. “It doesn’t have to get that far. Why are there still people dying? It’s been a year. People shouldn’t be dying.”
Learn more about COVID to Home and how you can implement the program in your hometown by calling 833-324-5433.