Home Monitoring Program an ‘important tool’ to prevent an undetected drop in blood oxygen levels and enable quick medical intervention
SOUTH GEORGIAN BAY ONTARIO HEALTH TEAM
To better support residents in South Georgian Bay who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are recovering at home, the South Georgian Bay Ontario Health Team (SGB OHT) has launched a Home Monitoring Program to care for high-risk patients with suspect or confirmed COVID-19.
A similar program was created at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) in response to the emerging evidence and research surrounding the dangers of ‘silent hypoxia’ in patients who tested positive for COVID-19. Silent hypoxia occurs when a patient’s oxygen levels fall dangerously low, while not displaying significant respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath. If not attended to, silent hypoxia can result in serious health complications, including respiratory failure.
In response to this risk, The Georgian Bay Family Health Team, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, and the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network Home and Community Care collaborated to develop a shared community response to care for high-risk patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The LHSC team provided consultation and resources to the SGB OHT clinical team – enabling them to adapt the program to the South Georgian Bay community.
Patients in the program receive a pulse oximeter and education on its use, in addition to daily nurse-led virtual visits to assess oxygen levels, symptoms and overall health, as they monitor for signs of silent hypoxia.
“Patients with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms when they are first diagnosed, but things can progress quickly, especially from day 5-10 after the onset of symptoms,” says Dr. Mark Quigg, a family physician with the Georgian Bay Family Health Team. “Through this program, our nurses are able to proactively identify patients who are showing signs of silent hypoxia and get them into treatment before their oxygen levels become critical and they require intensive care. This is especially important as the number of COVID-19 cases in our community continue to rise and potentially become more contagious. Any efforts to reduce the use of intensive care resources is essential to the integrity and sustainability of our health care system.”
The COVID-19 Home Monitoring Program is a powerful tool in helping patients receive early intervention when needed, and thereby avoiding rapid decline and requirement for intubation and ventilation. It is believed that as a result of this program, a number of lives have been saved in South Georgian Bay, through a collaborative approach to care.
May Porter and her husband Gord from Wasaga Beach, Ontario have been enrolled in the COVID-19 Home Monitoring Program since their COVID-19 diagnosis in the New Year. Porter says that she looks forward to the call from the program nurses every day. “The equipment helps me to know that my oxygen levels are OK and that I don’t need to worry about every little change in my symptoms. The regular calls from the nurses have given me reassurance and support and we are so grateful for all that has been done for us, while I was in the hospital and at home.”
Dr. Quigg has seen firsthand how the program has not only helped patients deal with their physical symptoms, but also provides a level of emotional support. “Being diagnosed with COVID 19 is very frightening for many patients and the program nurses are able to provide emotional support and guidance during their daily ‘virtual rounds’ that many patients appreciate.”
Patients can be referred into the COVID-19 Home Monitoring Program through their primary healthcare provider, public health, and the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, upon discharge.
For more information about the South Georgian Bay COVID-19 Home Monitoring Program and criteria for referral, please visit www.gbfht.ca.