Michigan Association of Health Plans

Pandemic Pushes Expansion of ‘Hospital-at-Home’ Treatment

As hospitals care for people with COVID-19 and try to keep others from catching the virus, more patients are opting to be treated where they feel safest: at home.

Across the U.S., “hospital at home” programs are taking off amid the pandemic, thanks to communications technology, portable medical equipment and teams of doctors, nurses, X-ray techs and paramedics. That’s reducing strains on medical centers and easing patients’ fears.

The programs represent a small slice of the roughly 35 million U.S. hospitalizations each year, but they are growing fast with boosts from Medicare and private health insurers. Like telemedicine, the concept stands to become more popular with consumers hooked on home delivery and other Internet-connected conveniences.

Eligible patients typically are acutely ill with — but don’t need round-the-clock intensive care for — common conditions including chronic heart failure, respiratory ailments, diabetes complications, infections and even COVID-19.

They are linked to 24/7 command centers via video and monitoring devices that send their vital signs. They get several daily home visits from a dedicated medical team. Just like in a hospital, they can press an emergency button any time for instant help.

Research on such programs around the world over the past 25 years shows patients recover faster, have fewer complications and are more satisfied, while costs can be a third lower.

Doctors, hospital officials and patients tout other advantages: People get more rest sleeping in their own bed. They can eat what they want, start moving around quicker and go outside for fresh air. They’re less likely to fall in their familiar surroundings, where they have support from family and even pets.

This article was originally featured in PBS NewsHour, read more here.