Program frees up hospital beds by sending some COVID-19 patients home

Monitoring at-home COVID-19 patients

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - For some COVID-19 patients treated at Samaritan Medical Center, a follow-up appointment might be just a phone call with a physician.

It’s a pilot program where patients with less severe cases of COVID-19 can be monitored for worsening conditions from home.

“At least 15 to 20 patients have been a part of this program so far,” Dr. Benjamin Rudd said. “Of that, two patients have called and have gotten sicker, and come back, and ended up admitted to the hospital.”

That’s a sign that Rudd, who is program director of Family Medicine at Samaritan, says shows this program is working.

“That means there were 15 or 20 patients that might have been taking up hospital beds and now of that we were able to effectively sort out the two who really did need that extra hospital care,” Rudd said, “and the remainder are able to stay home and recover at home.”

Before patients in this program leave the hospital, they are scheduled for a follow-up appointment within 48 hours.

They are also sent home with a pulse oximeter, which monitors the oxygen in their blood, and given a number to call in case their symptoms get worse or their oxygen levels get too low.

“Most people have an oxygen concentration in their blood between 95 and 100,” Rudd said. “If someone’s oxygen content is below 90 percent, that could be an early sign of a problem even if they’re feeling okay.”

Doctors and residents in this program fill a void for people who may not have a primary care doctor.

On top of all of that, it makes sure the hospital has enough bed capacity to treat not only COVID patients, but the rest of the patients in the hospital.

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