Leveraging digital tools to treat patients with COVID-19 at home
Javier is someone you would describe as strong and capable. Working as a superintendent’s assistant, his job is physically demanding and keeps him on his feet. But in April 2021, all that changed when he found out a co-worker had tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly after Javier, his wife Debora and their three daughters were all tested – four of them tested positive.
“We went to the Women’s College Hospital COVID assessment centre to get tested. As soon as we got our results, we received a call from COVIDCare@Home,” Debora outlined. “A plus oximeter was sent to our house the next day, so we could monitor our oxygen levels. They called us every day to see how we were doing.”
COVIDCare@Home was created to provide direct support to those with COVID-19 through virtual visits and remote home monitoring and help avoid hospitalization – or escalate care if needed. Based within primary care, COVIDCare@Home monitors patients and provides supports for their physical, mental and emotional health.
“Working closely and collaboratively as a multi-disciplinary team, COVIDCare@Home includes nurse practitioners, physicians, physiotherapists, social workers and occupational therapists,” said Shawna Kelly, a COVIDCare@Home nurse practitioner. “This allows us to treat patients in a more comprehensive manner. We are also better positioned to act quickly and escalate their care, should they need it. As was unfortunately the case for Javier.”
While everyone else was beginning to recover, Javier got worse – constant coughing, headaches, body pain and low oxygen levels. Recognizing the need to act quickly the team directed Deborah to call 911 and have Javier taken to their nearest in-patient hospital.
“When we arrived at our local hospital, they were initially resistant to admit Javier, I was truly scared for his life and knew he needed in-patient care. The team at Women’s provided me with the knowledge and life saving advice to advocate for Javier and ultimately get him admitted into hospital,” Debora added.
After a one week stay in hospital, Javier was discharged with medications and oxygen. But he and the family were lost on what to do next. “We didn’t know how to manage the recovery phase. We had so many questions. So, we called COVIDCare@Home for help and they began monitoring me again,” Javier said.
“I was so anxious and concerned about him, but COVIDCare@Home provided a sense of relief. It never felt like they were just going through the motions when we had our virtual visits, they were warm and truly cared,” Debora shared.
Over time Javier was slowly transitioned off oxygen and began physiotherapy as part of his recovery. “I met with Javier and Deborah virtually on a weekly basis,” said Tania Obljubek, a physiotherapist with COVIDCare@Home. “Debora provided support and translation, as Javier predominantly speaks Spanish. We discussed how to improve his shortness of breath through breathing exercises, strength and endurance through a daily home program, and fatigue by teaching pacing throughout the day.”
“Occupational therapy developed work guidelines and advocated for a safe and healthy return to work. Together we were able to help Javier return to work safely and to the activities he loves,” Obljubek mentioned.
While the recovery has been longer than anticipated, Javier continues to make progress and regains his health. “Our family is so thankful to have had access to this program and its services. I truly believe it made the difference between life and death,” Javier explained.
Over the past 18 months, COVIDCare@Home has supported ~2,600 patients. While it initially just followed patients tested at the Women’s College Hospital assessment centre, it expanded to support patients from other hospitals and help provide much-needed relief to an over-taxed healthcare system. COVIDCare@Home has proven invaluable to families like Javier and Debora and the healthcare system alike, and has created a strong foundation for exploring other remote care and monitoring programs in the future.