Mercy offering virtual care for COVID patients to free up hospital beds


ST. LOUIS – Mercy will use its virtual system to help care for select COVID-19 patients at home. The Mercy COVID Care @ Home program will ease the strain at hospitals by freeing up beds.

Patients in this program aren’t just coming from hospitals. Some may be referred from urgent cares or their primary physicians.

The 24-hour care will include measurement of oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry, adjusting oxygen flow as necessary, along with additional evaluations.

“We have learned that not all patients who were admitted at the onset of COVID-19 need to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Carter Fenton, medical director of Mercy Virtual vAcute.

An emergency medicine physician will help determine the type of care the patient needs if their condition changes. That care could be an in-home visit, at an outpatient clinic, or at a hospital.

Dr. Fenton says 36,000 patients have been enrolled in the program since March. They received alerts about 6,000 patients and referred 250 patients for higher care.

Mercy worked with Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider, to learn how it set up a similar program last spring.

Sunday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported staffed bed hospital capacity is at 77% and the ICU’s are at 89% of their total staffed capacity.

Mercy is one of four area health systems that make up the task force. The others are BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, and St. Luke’s Hospital.

Mercy COVID Care @ Home will offer remote, in-home care for patients with mild symptoms who may need low-flow rates of oxygen.

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