From the Journals

‘Hospital at home’ increases COVID capacity in large study


 

COVID vs. non-COVID patients

Atrium’s decision to focus its HaH effort on COVID-19 patients is unusual among the small but growing number of health systems that have adopted the HaH model to increase their capacity. (Atrium is now transferring some hospitalized patients with other conditions to its HaH, but is still focusing mainly on COVID-19 in its HaH program.)

Bruce Leff, MD, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, a leading expert on the HaH model, agrees that it can increase hospital capacity significantly.

Dr. Leff praised the Atrium Health study. “It proves that within an integrated delivery system you can quickly deploy and implement a virtual hospital in the specific-use case of COVID, and help patients and help the system at scale,” he said. “They took a bunch of people into the virtual observation unit and thereby kept people from overwhelming their [emergency department] and treated those people safely at home.”

Dr. Leff had no problem with Atrium’s focus on patients with COVID-19 rather than other conditions. “My guess is that they have the ability to take what they developed and apply it to other conditions. Once you have the ability to do acute care at home, you can do a lot at home.”

The biggest barrier to the spread of hospital at home remains the lack of insurer coverage. Dr. Murphy said that health plans are covering virtual physician consultations with patients in the HaH, as well as some other bits and pieces, but not the entire episode of acute care.

Dr. Leff believes that this will start changing soon. COVID-19 has altered the attitudes of physicians and hospitals toward telehealth, he noted, “and it has moved policy makers and payers to start thinking about the new models – home-based care in general and hospital at home in particular. For the first time in 25 years, payers are starting to get interested.”

Most of the authors are employees of Atrium Health. In addition, one coauthor reports being the cofounder of a digital health company, iEnroll, and receiving grants from The Heineman Foundation. Dr. Leff is an advisor to Medically Home, which provides support to hospital at home programs.

A version of this article originally appeared on Medscape.com.

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