Our colleague, Mark Hagee, recently recovered from COVID-19 and sat down with us to discuss his experience navigating the healthcare system as a patient. Mark is a healthy, active, slightly overweight 54 year old. Here is his story.

When did you begin to feel ill and suspect it may be COVID?

On September 24th, I began to experience symptoms, such as body aches, headache, fever, coughing, shortness of breath – all the classic COVID symptoms.

Mark Hagee, recovered COVID patient
Mark Hagee

When I began to feel worse the next day and my wife was also ill, we strongly suspected we had contracted COVID. We scheduled a test for September 26th to confirm our suspicions and both of our tests came back positive.

How did you realize you needed treatment from a healthcare facility?

We weren’t improving with bed rest and OTC medications at home, so our doctor decided we should be treated at our local hospital with an infusion of monoclonal antibodies. He arranged for us to have an appointment later that week, on September 29th. Being in the healthcare industry, I knew my doctor was right.

What happened after your infusion?

As my wife and I were leaving after our infusions, I couldn’t breathe and was unable to walk to the elevator. We were directed immediately to the Emergency Department, where I was quickly admitted after triage. In the ED, I had a chest x-ray and bloodwork taken and was given fluids. The x-ray showed signs of pneumonia and my heart

rate was elevated (155) and my blood pressure was low, although my sat rate remained in the 90s.

After several hours in the ED, I requested to go home and the doctor agreed to discharge me. I was sent home with the usual boilerplate paperwork, even though I couldn’t walk to my car and my heart rate was still very high. Over the next few days, I recuperated at home but received no follow-up from the hospital or my PCP to see if my condition was improving.

Luckily, I have a friend who is a physician that I was able to reach out to with any questions I had and I have family close by to monitor my symptoms as I recovered. I do think, though, about people who don’t have the resources that I do.

What would you have done differently?

If you know that there’s a company out there like Community Wellness, who can help you monitor your patients while they recover at home, why wouldn’t you implement their services? I would have felt much more comfortable being sent home with the appropriate RPM equipment (pulse oximeter, spirometer, thermometer) and knowing that a clinical coach would follow up with me on a regular basis.

It is such a simple way to improve patient outcomes. The hospital can manage patients post-discharge and patients have peace of mind knowing that they are still being monitored as they recover.

Traci Quillen, Community Wellness Vice President of Healthcare Partnerships, spoke with Latasha Hughes during the Health Watch segment on WCHS news to explain our COVID Home Management program that is being implemented in overwhelmed Kentucky hospitals this week.

With the Delta variant causing a surge in COVID-19 admissions, hospitals are stretched to their limits. Nursing staff and bed availability are at all-time lows and seriously ill patients keep coming into maxed-out Emergency Departments.

The desire to care for patients is ingrained into every healthcare professional so how do they keep caring for patients when they don’t have the bandwidth? RPM can be the solution.

ICU bed shortages for COVID patients

States are reporting a record shortage of available intensive care beds. Some hospitals have been forced to transfer patients to other facilities, possibly hundreds of miles away from their friends and family. Others have had to turn ill patients away and hope that they don’t take a turn for the worse.

Nursing staff shortages

In addition to bed shortages, hospitals are facing historic nursing shortages. With the COVID-19 pandemic well into its second year, many nurses are experiencing burnout and opting to leave the profession. Long hours and the pain of watching patients succumb to the virus have taken a toll. The lack of qualified nurses puts additional strain, however, on hospitals. Even if they have the ICU beds to accommodate patients, they may not have adequate staff to care for them.

How RPM can help

As patients become seriously ill with COVID-19, their first thought is to head to the hospital, where the ED has to make some difficult decisions. If the patient isn’t critical, the staff may be reluctant to give them a valuable bed when someone more critical may follow. However, if they send the patient home and their condition deteriorates, the patient may not realize how severely ill they are until it’s too late.

This is where RPM comes in. Hospitals can send seriously ill – but not critical – patients home with RPM equipment and have them monitor their vital signs. A downward trend in readings can signal to the provider that the patient needs to head back to the ED immediately for admission. Frequent monitoring can alert the provider before a patient would realize their condition has declined.

CW can bridge the COVID care gap

The Community Wellness MyWellness Connect™ app is free for patients to download. Our team can walk them through every step of setting up the devices and tracking their vital signs.

Our Alert & Triage Algorithm kicks in when a reading outside of safe parameters is recorded. The Community Wellness Patient Success team will reach out to the patient and ask them to take another reading. If that reading is also concerning, the provider is notified immediately to review the vital signs and determine appropriate next steps for their patient.

In these unprecedented times, health systems and hospitals need to have every possible resource at their disposal. RPM has become more prevalent and patients are increasingly comfortable with telemedicine now. Let’s embrace the future today when we need it most.

Learn more about our COVID Home Management program.