Some Wetaskiwin area residents are now receiving patient level care in their homes following the launch of an Alberta Health Services (AHS) pilot project last month.
The Home Hospital pilot project, similar to programs AHS has previously established in Edmonton and Calgary, provides eligible patients with hospital-level care in their homes through in-person and virtual supports.
Minister of Health Jason Copping says that he is pleased to see the project model expanding to more rural communities across the province.
The program has the capacity to provide care for two patients simultaneously and currently five local patients have received care through the program. Without ‘home hospital’ these patients would need a hospital bed at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre.
AHS senior operating officer, rural acute care, allied health, primary care and Indigenous health, Andrea Thain-Liptak says that many patients prefer to receive care at home over the hospital.
She adds, “it’s also good for the system because every patient for whom we can safely provide at home care translates into a hospital bed that’s available for someone who needs to be an inpatient and receiving treatment in an acute care environment. That improves the patient experience, as well as health system capacity and efficiency.”
The program at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and Care Centre is part of a randomized controlled trial which is testing a model of home hospital care in rural settings. Ariadne Labs is leading the trial and launched the Rural Hospital home program in 2018 to test if a home hospital model could be adapted for a rural setting.
Wetaskiwin is Ariadne Labs only Canadian study site.
“We see this model as the future of healthcare,” said David Levine, Ariadne Lab’s Rural Home Hospital lead.
“This model presents an opportunity for rural hospitals to begin to move into the digital future, optimize their capacity, and create a more sustainable model of care to better serve their patients.”
To be eligible for the program patients need to be admitted by a physician and meet specific clinical criteria.
Once in the program patients will be monitored remotely from the hospital and will receive regular visits from community paramedics.
The two other home hospital programs in Alberta, the Complex Care Hub in Calgary and Virtual Hospital in Edmonton, have seen a steady increase in patients over the past few years.
The two programs had a total of 296 admissions in 2019-2020 which jumped to 530 admissions in 2020-2021 and saw another increase to 644 in 2021-2022. In the two-year time span, which included the first year of the pandemic, there was a 118 per cent increase in admissions.
“The hope is for this initiative to increase acute care capacity beyond what is possible within our existing physical infrastructure while, at the same time, achieving positive patient outcomes through a different kind of patient experience,” said Thain-Liptak.
“If successful, this program could be a template for other rural communities across the province and country.”
The pilot project is expected to last several months after which AHS will review and analyze the results to determine if the program will continue.