Health Monitor steps up the fight against COVID-19

Adrian Hubble.JPG

Infectious Diseases Clinical Nurse Consultant Adrian Hubble is a member of the COVID-19 Health Monitor team.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

A phone-based support service for people who have tested positive to the coronavirus is providing a safe way to manage and monitor their health and wellbeing while they are self-isolating.

It also hopes to reduce preventable demand on hospitals and minimise further risk of the virus being transmitted in the wider community.

Designed by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne's Health Independence Program Complex Care Services, the Health Monitor program was originally used to manage patients at a high risk of returning to hospital after discharge.

More recently the program has been successfully redirected to manage COVID positive patients isolating at home by offering virtual access to a multi-disciplinary team that can regularly assess their needs and progress during the illness.

The outreach program provides clinical monitoring of symptoms, reinforces isolation procedures and measures, coordinates short-term welfare needs and helps to rapidly escalate hospital care when an individual’s health is deteriorating.

Face-to-face support is also being provided where required to address more complex health or social issues.

Infectious Diseases Clinical Nurse Consultant Adrian Hubble, a member of the COVID-19 Health Monitor team, says the service, which operates seven days a week, is making people feel reassured and comforted during these uncertain times.

“They really value the regular contact we provide,” says Mr Hubble.

How it works

Patients are contacted by a member of the Health Monitor team within 24 hours of being notified about a positive test or within 24 hours of hospital discharge. 

An initial health assessment evaluates their current symptoms, level of risk, identifies local healthcare providers and logs their medical history, including any medications they are taking.

An assessment of the household is also conducted to determine what support networks are in place and what other support may be required, such as care for children.

“The complexities of people’s lives at home are wide, many and varied,” says Mr Hubble.

“We create a snapshot of a person’s medical history and social needs – of what they have been experiencing since they tested positive.”

By having this information immediately on hand the care team are able to offer clients education and advice, in addition to valuable insights when assisting with rapid response for acute care.

Through regular monitoring of clients the care team can also identify and organise support for those struggling with isolation and experiencing feelings of anxiety.

Support network

The Health Monitor team is comprised of nursing staff, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, as well as care coordinators who can provide rapid on-demand outreach support to vulnerable clients.

The program partners closely with the Hospital in the Home (HITH) program which provides escalation pathways where symptoms are deteriorating or where there are concurrent medical issues requiring urgent review.

“We had one young client who had symptoms consistent with shingles in her eye and had our HITH registrar do a telehealth assessment and prescribe her medications that our care coordinators then dropped off to her,” says Mr Hubble.

“By facilitating interventions like this for people in isolation we mitigate the need for people to come into hospital emergency departments or GP practices while they are COVID+.”

Help at hand

So far, more than 200 people have been successfully managed through the program.

Kris,who was the program’s first client, initially learnt she was COVID positive while travelling on a cruise ship to Antarctica.

When she returned home after the two-week travel quarantine period, she had a sore throat again and decided to have it checked at the St Vincent’s Fever Clinic, where she tested positive a second time for the virus.

“I started feeling quite anxious about it all,” says Kris.

She says the Health Monitor program provided her with much-needed support, reassurance and answers to her questions during a very stressful period.

“It’s meant so much to have someone there to help and hold my hand through that time,” says Kris.

Currently, there are 111 active patients being supported by the program.