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Farmington hospital's COVID to Home program monitors patients through telemedicine

The COVID to Home program was started in April

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • San Juan Regional Medical Center's program has provided care for 923 patients who have been discharged.
  • The program was monitoring 78 patients, as of Dec. 29.
  • Those interested in the program can call 505-609-6284 to learn more.

FARMINGTON — A telemedicine clinic operated by San Juan Regional Medical Center has provided close monitoring of more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients, ensuring they have access to care while avoiding overloading the hospital.

The local program has been shared with a statewide advisory team and is inspiring other programs in the state to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID to Home Clinic is based out of the San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine office in Aztec.

It helps manage the cases of COVID-19 patients who do not have a primary care provider and who do not require hospitalizations or were discharged to their residence to self-isolate.

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San Juan County has had 10,620 cases of COVID-19 and 301 deaths, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The program was monitoring 78 patients, as of Dec. 29, with a staff of about 10 to 12 medical providers monitoring patients based on their category of risk, according to Nurse Practitioner Rebekah French.

French told The Daily Times the program was based on a similar program developed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

She started work in March based on how serious a danger she believed COVID-19 would become to this community, seeing how other communities saw a large influx of patients seeking hospitalization.

A telemedicine clinic run by San Juan Regional Medical Center operates from the San Juan Health Partners Family Medicine building at 120 Llano Street in Aztec.

“I knew that our hospital wouldn't be able to accommodate the influx of patients that we could potentially be getting from (COVID-19),” French said.

It was a very fast process to deploy the program by the second week of April.

Patients enrolled in the program are categorized in three different levels of risk: low, moderate or high. The assigned level of risk for each patient dictates how the providers help that patient.

Low risk patients are contacted on the first, fifth, seventh and 10th day in the program. Moderate risk patients are contacted every other day, except for weekends. High risk patients are contacted daily, in the morning by a doctor and in the afternoon by a nurse.

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“The idea behind the frequency of calls is because we can identify different trends, like if a patient doesn't sound very good or just pick up on subtle things to get them to the hospital before it becomes an emergency,” French said.

A total of 923 patients have been monitored and discharged from the program, according to French.

A trend French and the providers are seeing is their patients tend to wait a little too long before seeking medical attention and, by having staff monitor their progress, they can encourage them to go to the ER for treatment.

“We’ve had quite a bit of people that we’ve sent to the hospital and had been admitted,” French said. “I feel like earlier admission is definitely helping those patients out.”

Telemedicine visit.

Most of the recent patients in the telemedicine program have been moderate or high risk, French said.

“We have definitely noticed sicker patients being discharged home with oxygen that we’re having to monitor,” French said.

The average timeframe for a patient in the program is about 13 to 14 days, but providers have seen patients enrolled for around 20 days, especially if they were on oxygen, according to French.

Clinic director Shaleen Brown told The Daily Times that the San Juan Regional Medical Center took what it learned operating the COVID to Home program and shared it with the New Mexico Department of Health Medical Advisory Team.

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The board is comprised of healthcare providers, community members and state officials.

“They took those recommendations and guidance and developed an outline they presented to other counties and entities to form the same program in different areas of the state,” Brown said.

San Juan Regional also helped develop similar programs in Gallup and Las Cruces through the state department of health.

Brown said she was thankful French had the foresight to develop this program early on.

“This disease is scary. People can get sick very quickly from (COVID-19),” Brown said. “This program very much bridges that gap that was needed to take care of our community.”

Those interested in the program can call 505-609-6284 to learn more.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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