Mercy Hospitals use virtual care to lessen COVID’s impact on bed availability

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 6:07 PM CST
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ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - Growing numbers of coronavirus patients has cause a shortage of hospital beds. As of Wednesday there were only 51 adult ICU beds left in all of Oklahoma. To help free up beds, Mercy hospitals launched a program letting patients get doctor care for coronavirus without leaving home.

The program is called Mercy COVID Care @ home, and Mercy doctor Carter Fenton said the program was created to keep track of COVID patients from the time they’re tested, to when they’ve recovered or when higher care is needed.

“There’s a time frame when patients have a certain set of symptoms that could change,” Fenton said.

First a patient enrolls in a text based monitoring program.

“They receive a daily text over a 14 day period inquiring about their symptoms,” Fenton said.

If the patient replies saying their symptoms are getting worse, the team will reach out to discuss those symptoms over a phone or video call, and monitor vitals like heart rate.

“A lot of our patients have a pulse oximeter, which sits on your finger and measures your oxygen rate,” Fenton said.

The doctors at Mercy Virtual are still on the front lines, working in hospitals and emergency rooms.

“They’re bringing that same level of expertise into the virtual setting and now they’re gonna share it with patients who are actually in the home setting,” Fenton said.

Fenton said keeping patients with mild COVID symptoms out of busy hospitals helps reduce the virus’s spread and keeps them safe from catching other illnesses.

“We’re trying to provide an access to patient care that is not as risky, not as financially burdensome and not as physically burdensome,” Fenton said. “Cause these patients are sick. Just maybe not to where they need hospitalization.”

The program is free.

“The program’s actually available to all patients with suspected diagnosis of COVID or a confirmed diagnosis of COVID based on testing,” Fenton said.

Patients can be referred in by their Mercy primary care physician, at Mercy convenient care, the emergency room or by the physician when discharged from the hospital.

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