Kitchener-Waterloo

Remote nursing support offered to K-W area COVID-19 patients

The Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot, Woolwich, and Wellesley Ontario Health Team (KW4 OHT) and Ontario Health-West have launched a new remote patient monitoring program to support people living with COVID-19 who are not sick enough to go to the hospital. 

Nurses check in on patients a couple of times a day, and patients can reach out with questions or concerns

Dr. Joseph Lee is chair of the KW4 OHT steering committee and a physician at the Centre for Family Medicine in Kitchener, Ont. (Dr. Joseph Lee)

The Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot, Woolwich, and Wellesley Ontario Health Team (KW4 OHT) and Ontario Health-West have launched a new remote patient monitoring program to support people living with COVID-19 who are not sick enough to go to the hospital. 

The program offers check-ins with a nurse by phone, text or email, and can help escalate care if a person's condition deteriorates, according to OHT steering committee chair Dr. Joseph Lee. 

"It does help people because, you know, I think for a lot of people, they're scared and they have questions maybe [and] they're not at a threshold where they feel like they should be calling their doctor's office," Lee said.

"Maybe it's on a weekend. And so this helps to remove the barrier and just, you know, allay fears and help people, as long as they're ill, through this… so they're not going out in the public or they're not rushing to the hospital when it may not be appropriate." 

When the program first started, patients had to be referred by a primary care provider, but they can now refer themselves, according to a news release sent out by the health team. Public health and local hospitals can also refer patients. 

So far, about 368 people have been offered the service and around 213 have accepted, Lee said, noting that not everyone takes advantage of it. 

"Sometimes people feel comfortable because they're not particularly symptomatic or ill, or sometimes their isolation is actually almost complete for whatever reason, or sometimes there's barriers too, you know?" he said. 

"Sometimes people might be hearing impaired or sometimes English isn't their first language."

Those who are in the program typically hear from nurses twice a day, Lee said, though they can also reach out any time with questions or concerns. 

The program is a great example of an initiative that has taken place during the pandemic that could lead to improved healthcare when it's all over, he added.

"This is a good example of how I suppose if there's a silver lining to the pandemic, of how we can collaborate and use technology better to help people," he said. "And so, you know, we certainly are excited to potentially [use] this for other health conditions as well."

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