Virginia Mason Franciscan Health announced this month a new program between Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center and a national home care company to help ease overcrowding and health care costs.
VMFH Home Recovery Care has started with St. Joseph patients in collaboration with Nashville-based Contessa, a home medical care provider. Under the program, available to Medicare fee-for-service patients during the initial launch, eligible people can opt for home care as opposed to an inpatient stay.
Patients are assigned a virtual and in-person care team, including physician, acute-care nurse and recovery-team coordinator.
According to the release announcing the program launch, eligible patients in the emergency department are “transported back to their homes to receive hospital-level care the same day, supported by staff and the medical equipment they need for their recovery. The service is ideal for patients with a variety of acute conditions who would otherwise be admitted to the hospital, such as COVID-19, RSV, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and urinary tract infections.”
Other possible treatable conditions include asthma and cellulitis.
Computer tablets are provided for the virtual care at no additional cost. The virtual care includes remote monitoring of vitals, “as well as daily health assessments …,” according to the news release.
The at-home care can include IV administration, wound care and dressing changes. An assigned nurse “will visit you at least twice a day for the first few days, or longer, right in the comfort of your own home,” according to the program’s details. The recovery care coordinator “is available to you 24/7 and will be your main point of contact for questions or concerns.”
VMFH says it “is exploring opportunities to expand to additional locations and include patients with other health plans in the future.”
Ketul Patel, CEO of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, said in announcing the program that it “allows us to offer our patients a more convenient way to receive care while increasing our inpatient capacity for patients with the highest acuity.”
Hospitals across the state, including St. Joseph, have struggled with patient capacity during the pandemic and most recently during the triple-demic of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
VMFH, in its announcement, noted, “This model, on average, reduces readmission rates by 44 percent and decreases the mean length of a hospital stay by 35 percent while delivering high patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.”
Other health entities run similar programs, generally tied to skilled nursing and hospice care programs.
Tacoma-based MultiCare, for example, offers a Home Health and Hospice program. Its website notes that for those seeking round-the-clock care, “we can help you access that level of care if that is your need.”
More details about the VMFH Home Recovery Care program at St. Joseph are at vmfh.org/our-services/home-recovery-care.