Duke Health program keeping COVID-19 patients out of the hospital


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Susan Sellers’ life is almost back to normal.

“I’m still getting a little fatigued sometimes but that’s normal with pneumonia in general,” Sellers said.

She contracted COVID-19 earlier in the month and underwent an infusion therapy at Duke Health. Shortly after, she started to feel ill again and returned to the hospital. Instead of admitting her into the emergency room, she was asked to be the first participant in a Duke’s home health program for COVID-19 patients.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, why wouldn’t I want to be at home,'” Sellers said.

Enhanced Home Health COVID-19 Care allows patients to recover from the virus in the comfort of their homes, freeing up hospital beds for the sickest patients. It’s especially needed at a time when hospital capacity has dwindled.

Sellers was gladly willing to free up a bed for someone else.

“I’m sure there’s people that are a lot worse off than what I was going through. I had some chest pains and a hard time breathing. whereas some people really can’t breathe at all,” Sellers said.

Under the program, a nurse visits every morning. Later in the day, a doctor checks in via telehealth.

“I really feel like this type of nursing is community nursing and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Rachel Dye, a nurse case manager at Duke who worked with Sellers.

She said patients need to meet strict oxygen level requirements and must have enough electric power in their home to supply power to medical devices patients take home. They also need to have someone living with them to be a second pair eyes for medical staff.

“It’s a lot of work to try to recover at home. We have very specific goals that were trying to meet,” Dye said.

Breathing exercises are done 10 times every hour. Patients have to log their own vitals every four hours.

Nurses need to be detail-oriented to notice if anything goes array and quickly respond to any need to send a patient to the hospital.

“In a hospital, you were in a controlled environment. You can, at any given moment, just call out from the room and five people appeared,” Dye explained.

Duke Enhanced Home Health COVID-19 Care is typically covered by insurance. At this point, it is a pilot program operating by invitation only.

There have only been six patients so far, but 10 can be accommodated at time for now.

“I do hope that this does ease the burden on the hospital, even just a little bit and I think that it will,” Dye said.

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