UW Health rolls out 'hospital at home' at 2 ERs

Madison, Wis.-based UW Health has launched a "hospital-at-home" program that will initially serve up to four patients at a time but that could care for 300 people a year starting in 2024.

The initiative, which started in July, is available to patients who enter the emergency room at either University Hospital or East Madison Hospital, both in Madison. Physicians and nurses, aided by an EHR software tool, identify patients who might be candidates.

Medical transport takes the patients home, assessing it for safety and setting them up with medical equipment such as IV pumps or oxygen tanks. Each patient gets a tablet that gives instantaneous video access to the care team and a smartwatch that can immediately alert a nurse. A physician visits the patient's home at least once a day, while nurses stop by a minimum of twice daily. Specialty care can be provided via video.

"We know hospital capacity can be a challenge at many health systems, and this is one way we can help address that in our hospitals by freeing up patient beds for people who can't recover or receive care at home," Mandy McGowan, director of home-based care programs, UW Health, in an Aug. 30 news release. "Patients also tend to prefer to be home, if they can be."

She added that patients can be more active at home and avoid risk of hospital-related complications, such as delirium, confusion and certain infections. They can also be around their loved ones and pets.

UW Health got CMS approval for its acute-hospital-care-at-home waiver in September 2022, joining a list of 125 health systems that have gotten the OK.

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