This hospital care at home meets patients "where they are"

ROCKLEDGE, Florida—Originally created out of a combination of both necessity and opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health First’s Hospital at Home program has officially reached 1,000 patients—as hospital leaders seek to grow the program as a permanent fixture in medical care.

Established in 2021 initially as a way to open hospital space for COVID patients, Health First was one of the very first health care systems in the state of Florida to develop and operationalize the “hospital outside of the hospital” model, which serves patients who are sick enough to be admitted to a traditional brick and mortar hospital—but stable enough to be given the option to be managed in the comfort and familiarity of their own home, as hospital-level of care services are delivered directly to them.

Leveraging wearable monitoring technology to track patient vital signs, telemedicine and in-person care, this combination enables care teams to monitor, communicate and intervene with patient care plans consistent with the standards of care provided in a traditional hospital unit … but in the comfort, convenience and familiarity of one’s own home.

According to Joseph Lavelle, Health First’s vice president for the program, the 1,000 patient milestone is both celebratory and inspirational, as he and fellow Health First leaders are preparing for rapid growth of the program in the coming years.  

“I’m incredibly proud of every member of our team that helped realize this milestone—from those who imagined and envisioned a model of providing acute care hospital-level medicine outside of the physical walls of a hospital—to those who provide compassionate round-the-clock care and monitoring," said Lavelle. "Reaching 1,000 patients in three years provides us with an opportunity to celebrate, but more importantly, it’s a validation that what we are doing works well—and that success will reinforce a new wave of hospital-at-home care into the future."

Supported by a robust clinical infrastructure, the program allows patients presenting any of Health First’s four hospitals to be evaluated for one of numerous conditions eligible for potential treatment at home with hospital-level care, including, but not limited to:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Simple Pneumonia
  • Cellulitis
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Dehydration
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Bronchitis & Asthma
  • Skin infections
  • COVID-19 

Suitable patients for the program will receive:

  • Transportation to their home if needed
  • Support from a dedicated coordinator who guides their care
  • Delivery and setup of all necessary equipment, medications, and supplies
  • 24/7 remote monitoring of their vital signs by our clinical team
  • Two in-home visits by a clinical team member
  • Daily in-home or virtual visits from a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or physician.
  • Support to coordinate all needed services and follow-up appoints after discharge

Recent studies show that patients receiving care in their home environment experience fewer hospital readmissions and visits to the emergency department, less time in bed and increased patient satisfaction. Further, other hospital systems with similar initiatives have shown favorable outcomes for patients treated under the same model.

“This program enables hospitals to extend their bed capacity, improve patient outcomes and create higher patient and staff satisfaction, all while making hospital costs more efficient," said Lavelle. "Health First, and similar programs around the country, have demonstrated that acute care conditions such as asthma, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, respiratory infections, sepsis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can in many cases be safely treated in home settings with proper monitoring and treatment protocols, and in a majority of cases results in fewer readmissions, lower infection rates and higher patient satisfaction."

Sheila Anderson and her husband Bob are New York state residents who spend approximately 6 months a year in Melbourne Beach. When Sheila had sudden issues putting weight on her leg, accompanied by intense pain, the couple made a trip to the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center. There, it was discovered Sheila had arterial damage, which was restricting blood flow to her knee. After surgery, followed by more than two weeks in an ICU, Sheila, who was “emotionally ready to leave the hospital” was presented with the option to continue her inpatient care in the comfort of home—with her husband and their adoring puppy.

“They told me about this program and I thought, ‘Wow, I have never heard of this before.’ And now that I've gone through it and I've seen what it did for me personally, I wish we could see these programs pop up not only in Florida, but all over the United States. I think this is important for patients emotionally and physically,” said Anderson.

“It’s been like day and night. I'm walking," Anderson continued. "The swelling has gone down. I still have the leg elevated for the swelling, but it is just so much better being home. I can shower in my own shower, eat my own food, play with my puppy and interact with my husband. I just feel more human and independent again, and I know this program has helped me to heal much quicker being at home.”