Dottie Rattigan landed in WellSpan York Hospital right after Thanksgiving, with pneumonia, bronchitis, and congestive heart failure. She did not want to be in the hospital over the holidays, something she has experienced several times.
“I got whammed with stuff,” says Dottie, 77, a straight-talking, amiable woman who lives and works in York, as a manager of an apartment complex. “I was getting treated for it and then Adam comes in my hospital room and says, ‘We’re going to send you home.’
“I said, ‘Excuse me?’ “
Adam is Adam Updegraff, a family nurse practitioner who is director of the WellSpan Hospital at Home program. He explained to Dottie that the program would allow her to be treated with intravenous drug therapy and oxygen for her lung issues and recuperate in the comfort of her own home.
“So of course, I kind of looked at him, and then I said, ‘Well I would like that!’ “ Dottie says. “Anyone wants to go home, especially around the holidays. I don’t care who you are.”
Begun about a year ago, WellSpan Hospital at Home provides treatment for patients who are stable and have lower-acuity problems, but who previously would have required hospitalization. These patients receive services such as intravenous therapy, oral medications, lab tests and remote monitoring, as well as one or two daily visits from a nurse, during which they also get a remote visit with a provider.
The program has treated more than 400 patients since it began. Critical to its operation during the pandemic, the program has allowed these patients to transition out of the hospital, opening beds for other patients during a time when COVID-19 has strained the capacity of WellSpan York Hospital. WellSpan is expanding the program to WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital in early 2022 and WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in the spring of 2022.
“Our long-term goal is to be available in all areas where they have overcrowding issues,” Updegraff says. “We stabilize these patients, treat their medical conditions and then transition them back to their regular provider.
“This helps us to align patients with the appropriate services in the appropriate location. And at this time of year, every patient is bugging to get home. They are able to spend the holidays with their loved ones while still getting the care they need.”
WellSpan has employed several methods to help relieve the pressure on its hospitals during the most recent COVID-19 surge. It also has partnered with SpiriTrust to help staff the organization’s long-term care beds so patients who are eligible can be released from the hospital to nursing care facilities. It also has transitioned WellSpan Surgery and Rehabilitation Hospital to an acute-care site, is delaying or postponing non-urgent surgeries and has added additional agency staffing to its hospitals.
Dottie’s daughter came and stayed with her for a few days after she was discharged to her home, under the care of Hospital at Home. Like Dottie, she was a little worried about transferring her mom’s care to the home setting.
“She said, ‘Mom, you know I’m not a nurse,’ “ Dottie recalls. “Well, the nurses come in and they do everything. We have that thing we go back and forth on – the tablet – and they do the blood work right here and everything is FAN-TAS-TIC.”
Dottie’s daughter had time to put up her mom’s Christmas decorations and visit, while the WellSpan team did all the medical care. Meanwhile, Dottie checked in on her own work tasks, watched TV and caught up on reading. The best part: she got to do it from the comfort of her own couch. (She loves her couch.)
“Everything is right there for you,” Dottie says. “You’re in your own bed. You’re eating your own food. You’re at home! If something is not right, the nurse is right there.
“When you’re in the hospital at Christmastime, it’s very lonely. When that happened to me before, my family came in to see me but it’s not the same. You’re down. Your family is not feeling good either. They want you to be home.”
Dottie is slowly getting back on her feet. She still is using oxygen, doing physical therapy and getting nurse visits, but is down to twice-a-week sessions.
“My attitude is different. I don’t feel sick because I’m at home, in my own surroundings,” she says. “This worked out good.”
For more information about WellSpan Hospital at Home, go here.