New 'Virtual Inpatient Unit' launches in Calgary
Alberta Health Services has launched a new program at two Calgary hospitals to help non-urgent emergency room patients.
Under the Complex Care Hub program, patients who come into the Rockyview Hospital and the South Health Campus emergency departments for non-urgent treatment are admitted and followed as they would be under a conventional hospital admission, says AHS.
But unlike traditional inpatients, they aren’t transferred to a unit in the hospital to recover. Instead, they sleep in their own bed at home.
Participants are monitored by community paramedics and nurses and consult with doctors via Skype.
"When they come around, I feel like there’s somebody there that cares," said 63-year-old Winnie Smith, a patient under the program. "I think it’s really great because I feel safe when they come."
Smith suffers from kidney problems and has been in and out of hospital in the past. But now, non-urgent patients like her don’t have to visit the ER. A paramedic can check them out and run tests at home.
Community paramedic Michael Lacasse has gotten to know Smith during several visits. "If you can be cared for in your home, why not? It just makes sense."
"Most people don’t know this exists," added Lacasse,"and when they find out about it, that you can be admitted to the hospital and be at home...they’re, like, what? Really? We can do this?"
Dr. Michelle Grinman is one of the doctors who uses Skype to talk to patients at home. "The benefit is also that they get to be in the comfort of their own home," said Dr. Grinman. "They get to sleep in their own bed. They get to follow their own routines."
If a hospital experiences an epidemic or other crisis, and becomes crowded with patients, they would have the ability to treat people outside of hospitals under the program, says Grinman.
Smith says she appreciates the modern-day house calls. "If I ever go off the program, I’m going to miss them. But I do really recommend them. They are awesome."