New York, NY — As the pandemic surged, New York City’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, one of the oldest in the country, knew it needed large-scale innovation to accommodate and care for the influx of patients with COVID-19. Like many COVID-era trends, some of these changes had been developing gradually for years already but suddenly had to accelerate exponentially. Now, with New York on the other side of the corona curve, some of these adjustments have proved so beneficial that they’re very much here to stay.
Some changes were architectural—healthcare workers wore GoPro cameras on their heads for days at a time, to give design consultants an understanding of the space and its constraints. Walls and doors of transparent plastic were introduced in open ICU areas, providing safer access to patients, and using HEPA filters many patient rooms were made into negative-pressure chambers, which prevent the coronavirus from exiting when doors are ajar.
Another, more telling game-changer was the rise of at-home patient care, for which Mt. Sinai started a pilot over five years ago. But its popularity has skyrocketed during COVID-19 (as has its value). Many health systems across the world saw their revenues plummeting during the pandemic as people were reluctant to come in for in-person appointments, and at-home care models like Mt. Sinai’s have helped ease this financial strain while freeing up hospital beds for patients who need them.
According to Dr. Bruce Leff of Johns Hopkins Medical School, America is “still in what I would call an early-adopter phase of hospital at home. But I would say in the six months before COVID-19 there was just a lot more inbound unsolicited calls coming to me about hospital at home. And then since COVID-19 hit, it’s been a bit off the charts.” Some new payment models are allowing for Medicare reimbursement of care at home.
Health systems should consider what at-home care programs might enable them to do with their in-hospital real estate. Speaking to Fast Company, Dr. Linda DeCherrie, who has been running Mt. Sinai’s care at home program since 2014, suggested that a given hospital might “really want to offer more of something. Now they’re going to attract a new surgeon to their hospital or they want to have more of an oncology floor. So if we can open up this space for those new conditions, that’s great for a hospital.”
Across the globe, more and more at-home solutions are changing the look and feel of care for providers and patients alike. CVS is organizing clinical trials to test its at-home dialysis device, which it hopes to bring to market by the end of this year. In China, the Chinese State Council and National Health Commission are in the process of scaling Internet hospitals – three-in-one cloud platforms for remote diagnosis, prescriptions, and disease management. In line with such developments, patients and providers will require novel support as their whole care experience is redefined.