With COVID-19 being a new illness, a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 can bring about uncertainty for a patient. Similar to any diagnosis, questions may arise from the patient – What will my symptoms be? How long will they last? Will I need hospital care? – and many more.

The good news is that most COVID-19 patients don’t require hospital care, as symptoms are usually relatively mild. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still need support from their health care provider throughout their illness.

As a way to support patients through a COVID-19 diagnosis, a team from Scarborough Health Network (SHN) and the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) developed the COVID-19 remote monitoring program.

When a patient tests positive at a SHN hospital, they will be contacted by a doctor who will inform them of their results, discuss their next steps, and answer any questions they have. The patient will then be invited to enroll in the optional remote monitoring program.

Upon joining, patients will use an interactive app to track their symptoms twice a day, with all information being transmitted back to the remote monitoring team. The program even goes above and beyond to provide pulse oximeters, which are small, lightweight devices used to monitor the amount of oxygen carried in the body. This provides the nurse further insight into a patient’s breathing at home.

Should symptoms escalate, a nurse from the Central East LHIN will contact the patient for a phone assessment. Based on the follow-up conversation with the patient and the severity of their symptoms, the nurse will then connect with one of SHN’s doctors (who is part of the escalation support team), to determine the next steps in the patient’s care journey. Nine SHN doctors have volunteered their time to support the escalation support team.

“Patients with COVID-19 symptoms are understandably worried as they don’t know what the future holds after their diagnosis, especially if they have other illnesses,” noted Dr. Larry Nijmeh, Emergency Services. “Being able to offer virtual nursing support and home monitoring with pulse oximetry provides both a safety net and a compassionate voice on the other end of the line.”

The LHIN team also works with patients within the program to connect them with further community supports, if needed. For example, a patient with an underlying health condition may not need to go back to the hospital for further care, but may need further home support or community care.

“The COVID-19 remote monitoring program has been an amazing way to demonstrate the value of collaboration between hospitals and Home and Community Care,” said Cathy Slevin, Senior Manager, Clinical Care Programs, Central East LHIN.

“Anxious patients receive much needed support, nurses express a high degree of satisfaction with the caring for patients remotely, and the physicians from the SHN escalation support team are always available for consultation when needed. I look forward to continuing to find ways to partner with our Ontario Health East hospitals in order to improve safe transitions from hospital to home.”

Thank you to our partners at the Central East LHIN for their support in providing exceptional care across our region. For more information on COVID-19 visit SHN.ca/COVID-19.