FL hospital systems are looking to expand in-home medical care, but will lawmakers go along?

By: - September 20, 2021 6:32 pm

A man hospitalized with COVID-19 is given medicine. Credit: Getty Images

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of sick patients, some overwhelmed hospitals in Florida have found innovative ways to deliver health services to residents’ homes and want to expand those efforts.

Dr. Neil Finkler, chief clinical officer at AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, told state House lawmakers Monday that limited bed spaces are a major issue in hospitals, and officials are looking for more remote care opportunities for residents.

“It became very clear to us at the outset that if COVID got as bad as we thought it could be that we could potentially have limited space left within our walls of our facilities,” Finkler said. “Most importantly, we started to think of how do we deflect care out of emergency rooms and out of our hospitals to reduce both emergency room visits as well as readmission.”

Monday’s meeting launched committee meetings prior to the January 2022 legislative session. In this case, lawmakers in the House health committees listened to presentations and asked questions about the in-home programs.

In May, AdventHealth announced a partnership with DispatchHealth, a medical provider of in-home care, to offer medical services to patients in cities, such as Daytona Beach, Ocala and Orlando.

According to its website, DispatchHealth sends two medical professionals including a physician assistant or nurse practitioner along with a “DispatchHealth Medical Technician,” to treat patients in their homes for a variety of illnesses, such as asthma, COVID-19 and pneumonia.

It’s unclear whether those health care workers will be required to get COVID vaccines. But some hospitals in Central Florida including AdventHealth Orlando have not made shots mandatory as of early September, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The Florida Phoenix reached out to AdventHealth about vaccinations for home health workers but has not yet gotten a response.

During Monday’s Health & Human Services Committee meeting, Finkler said AdventHealth was able to refer over 36,000 patients to what’s called “remote patient monitoring,” since April 2020.

“Patients were given thermometers as well as home oxygen sensors and if there were any alarming factors, we were able to do virtual visits or send a physician and/or a caregiver out to the actual home and check up on the patient,” Finkler said.

“We’ve seen great results with regards to being able to care for patients in a space that prior to COVID, we never considered.”

Meanwhile, a representative from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville told state lawmakers at the same committee meeting that the hospital has received positive feedback from its at-home hospital care program.

Ajani Dunn, Mayo Clinic’s Enterprise Chair of Advanced Care at Home and Digital Practice Strategy, said they implemented the remote services in response to complaints about the food, hospital beds and absence of family. He is seeking support from state lawmakers to expand the program, which offers care for sick patients but not needing ICU care.

The model, which provides hospital-level care at homes, is currently offered in Jacksonville but Mayo Clinic plans to expand the program, Dunn said.

“If we can meet the patient where they are, we believe we can expand our reach,” Dunn said.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.