Harris Health Begins New Hospital at Home Service to Improve Patient Access, Comfort
Health & Science

Harris Health Begins New Hospital at Home Service to Improve Patient Access, Comfort

February 29 2024

A new program, believed to be the first of its kind in greater Houston, gives patients needing hospital-level care the opportunity to receive it at home. Harris Health System launched its Hospital at Home service Feb. 26. It’s a program the system hopes will help enhance access for all patients and improve the flow of patients through congested emergency departments.  

Nationally, other healthcare systems are providing similar hospital care at home. According to the National Institutes of Health, a recent report touts the success of this type of care as “compared with patients in a hospital setting, patients in hospital at home programs had better clinical outcomes and lower readmission rates.”

Harris Health hopes to achieve similar results. In simple terms, patients with non-life-threatening conditions like urinary tract infections, cellulitis and hypertensive urgency can receive hospital care at home and not be admitted into a hospital bed, which can then be used for more complicated patient cases. The program is optional for patients who meet certain requirements: agree to participate, have a house or apartment, electricity, running water and safe accommodations. Organizers estimate that even a 1-10% decrease in patients admitted into Harris Health’s brick and mortar hospitals—Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson—could cut unnecessary use of resources and increase bed capacity.

“Any extended time a patient waits in the emergency center can be an ordeal,” says Dr. Shazia Sheikh, medical director, Harris Health Hospital at Home, and assistant professor, Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine. “The more people we’re able to treat at home, the more our capacity increases at our hospitals. Who wants to wait in the emergency center for hours when they’re in pain?”

Patients arriving at hospital emergency centers are screened. If they agree and qualify, the patient is transported home by Harris Health with a team of doctors or nurse practitioners who conduct an immediate visit. The team conducts up to two daily visits while the patient is in the program, and are responsive to patient calls 24/7. 

“Hospital at Home and the team provide the same comprehensive care the patient would receive at the hospital, all in the comfort of their home,” explains Rohan Dwivedi, director of operations, Harris Health Hospital at Home. “As a not-for-profit public safety-net healthcare system, every dollar Harris Health saves will get reinvested into other services and programs. So, if we can save 33% on care for each patient through this program, that’s the same amount that we can dedicate back to care provided elsewhere in the system.”

Dr. Shazia Sheikh Rohan Dwivedi Amy Smith

Patients in the program receive a web-based tablet capable of connecting them to their doctor and nurse 24/7 to answer questions and concerns. If the patient requires a higher level of acute care, Harris Health picks up the patient and takes him/her to the hospital. The initial goal of the program is to have four patients receiving hospital care at home at all times with the ability to scale up to 16 or more as the program grows and matures. 

“I truly believe in the Hospital at Home Program and its potential,” says Amy Smith, senior vice president, Care Integration and Transition, Harris Health. “What Harris Health is doing is a ‘calling.’ We’re bringing the hospital to the community and expanding our ability to serve more patients.”

Smith adds that the program is expected to improve patient satisfaction as it reduces hospital length of stay and lowers the readmittance rate. Additionally, in-home care is significantly more cost-effective than critical care in a hospital setting.

Sheikh agrees. “Improving patients’ lives is why I got into healthcare,” she adds. “What’s so exciting about the program is our ability to build it from the ground up with that goal in mind.”

The future of the Hospital at Home Program is exciting. The team has built the program’s infrastructure which includes information technology, pharmacy services and a larger Harris Health clinician team.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Sheikh adds. “Our hope is that Harris Health’s Hospital at Home Program can become a model for improved emergency center and hospital care for others in the U.S.”

Source: Harris Health

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