OSF HealthCare launches Pandemic Health Worker program to monitor COVID-19 patients at home

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OSF HealthCare is launching a program to monitor individuals with COVID-19 symptoms in isolation at home by dropping off a kit that may include a computer tablet to keep regular communication with them.

A community member experiencing coronavirus symptoms can call into OSF’s 24-hour hotline at 833-673-5669, and if they meet the requirements, a pandemic health worker will be deployed to their home to drop off some supplies, which may include a computer tablet, hand sanitizer, among other other items to care for themselves.

Teams of pandemic health workers will be stationed throughout Illinois with the first groups established in Alton, Evergreen Park and Peoria/Bloomington.

The program will then expand in the next few days to serve communities in and around Ottawa/Mendota/Streator, Pontiac, Champaign/Urbana/Danville, Galesburg/Kewanee/Monmouth and Rockford.

OSF HealthCare is expected to initially serve 8,400 people through its pandemic health workers each month when all locations are activated.

” … (this may include) some technology apps that they are using, to be able to digitally communicate with our patients throughout the day so that we can make sure we are monitoring them and if they begin to feel they are sicker and demonstrate symptoms, then we would be able to elevate them to a provider,” said Jennifer Junis, senior vice president of St. Gabriel Digital Health at OSF HealthCare.

The idea of the program is to proactively and digitally support those needing care, while also reducing the potential influx of non-emergent patients into a hospital’s emergency department.

“Equipped with technology, PHWs will visit care recipients on a daily basis, deliver kits that include essential tools to monitor their health, and follow up over a 14-day period to ensure no further assistance is needed,” said John Vozenilek, MD, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Innovation and Digital Health for OSF HealthCare.

When assigned to the pandemic health worker, a client will receive health monitoring tools, depending on what already is available in the home, and will typically stay in the program for 14 days. A pandemic health worker will be connecting with at least 27 clients per month.

A person is eligible for the program if he or she is showing COVID-19 symptoms, or is at high risk for contracting the virus, but does not require emergency or inpatient care, and can be digitally monitored at home.

They must first call the hotline and be digitally triaged by a nurse. Depending on the answers to the screening questions, the nurse or other provider will determine if they are eligibl. If enrolled, the client will be notified and receive a phone call from a pandemic health worker within 48 hours.

OSF also has integrated an AI symptom checker into its http://www.osfhealthcare.org website’s digital assistant, a chatbot named Clare. The nurse triage line fields calls from across Illinois about the virus, and a free text messaging tool called OSF COVID Companion pushes guidance about COVID-19. As of April 2, a video visit option is available as well. On the first day of operation, there were 19 video visits from a broad geographical area in Illinois and included both pediatric and adult patients.

“We are grateful the state of Illinois saw promise in the multi-pronged, digital response, we developed to manage COVID-19,” said Michelle Conger, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Executive Officer of St. Gabriel for OSF HealthCare. “With an expected increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, we believe the Pandemic Health Worker Program will help alleviate pressure from hospitals, and protect health care workers, and patients, from further spread of the virus.”