Virtual appointments can shorten your hospital stay, VCU doctors say

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — What if you could go to the hospital at home? VCU Health has launched a new program allowing patients to dial into their appointments.

Dr. Julia Breton, co-medical director of VCU’s Home Hospital program, said the program provides patients with acute, hospital-level care in their own homes.

“People eat, sleep and rehab a lot better at home than they do in the hospital,” she said.

The healthcare system made the announcement last week. VCU Health said that this is the first hospital-at-home program in Central Virginia.

According to Breton, the program is nothing new, but it has grown in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This type of care has probably been desired for a long time and that was maybe a silver lining of the pandemic– is that it really helped us think outside the box and take a patient-centered approach to care,” she said.

The groups of people who are more likely to participate in the program are older adults and people who live within a 25-mile radius of the hospital’s downtown campus, according to Breton.

Patients who’ve suffered an illness — like a congestive heart failure but are now stable — can continue their treatments at home.

They’ll be given a tablet with a video camera, and they’ll have around-the-clock access to a physician. Nurses or staff can also send supplies, like oxygen, to their doorstep.

VCU Health said studies show patients can benefit from this program, as it cuts down on re-admissions to hospitals, gives patients a faster recovery and it reduces mortality.

“We see that patients tend to have a shorter length of stay in the hospital,” Breton said. “They don’t need to be hospitalized for quite so long.”

The program is expected to serve up to 2,000 patients within the first year.

“A lot of older adults also can get delirious which means they can get confused when they’re in the hospital and they’re not getting great sleep and their body’s under a lot of stress,” Breton said. “Being in your own home is very orienting. It allows you to be with caregivers who are familiar to you.”