The COVID pandemic has impacted us all in various ways. This is part 1 of a series on Way to Health's involvement in helping address the pandemic. To date, Way to Health has enabled over 10 COVID related projects which were all set up within days to ensure patient quality of care while optimizing resource investments. This post focuses on the design and launch of the COVID Watch project.
In early March of 2020, when the U.S. began to take the threat of this pandemic seriously, a small team began to brainstorm ideas of how this challenge could be addressed. At this point, the biggest concern was hospitals becoming overwhelmed with patients as we tracked how New York hospitals were struggling. We also realized that for each patient requiring hospitalization, there might be 25 or more patients who would not be sick enough to require hospitalization, but who could worsen quickly or be worried they might. So we focused on addressing the latter problem i.e. we focused on developing a strategy to watch over patients with confirmed or presumed COVID-19 at home. As the paper published later details, we tried to solve for three goals simultaneously:
Support a heterogeneous population of patients infected with Covid-19 who were remaining at home.
Identify and expedite the care of infected patients whose conditions were worsening.
Reduce health care personnel burden at a time when clinicians were being diverted to other tasks.
The team met on a daily basis at 7:00 AM, 7 days a week for the first 8 weeks of the program. A few decisions were made quickly. These were:
The program went live on March 23rd with all the operational backends in place and had 3 patients enrolled into the program. By April 1 (10 days), we had 421 patients in the program. By May 1, that number had increased to 3627 and the pace of enrollment kept accelerating. We are currently (at the time of this blog post) at a cumulative count of 15,071 patients.
At one point, it was thought that perhaps we were being too restrictive in terms of symptoms i.e. asking only about dyspnea. To test this out, we added additional symptom questions that would cause escalations to the nurses manning the lines. We found an 10x increase in escalations but no difference in ED referrals. We quickly reverted this change and the escalation rate dropped back to expected numbers.
Engagement - Patients continued to engage with the twice daily check-ins at an approximate rate of 80%
Escalations - Depending on the time period, this ranged from 20-40 per day on average. This volume paralled the ebb and flow of the disease in the community.
NPS - Net Promoter score continues to be in the 70+ range with over 5000 respondents. Note that NPS only counts 9s and 10s as promoters.
Spanish version - To ensure broad coverage, a version of Watch in Spanish was also stood up. This variant has served 346 as of this post’s publication.
With the ongoing success of the program, there was immediate interest from other departments within Penn Medicine. We were able to very quickly set up variants of the program:
Given the success of the program and the sister program (COVID Pulse that gave patients Pulse Oximeters to have a more objective measure of dyspnea - more on this in a subsequent post), the team applied for and won a $2.5 million grant from PCORI to run a full randomized control trial comparing the relative advantages and the program’s ability to eliminate racial disparities in care. Enrollment in this program was completed in 4 months and we are currently in the data analysis phase. We’ll post more about the results when they can be shared. The program has a dedicated website where more details on the team involved, press, publications, patients quotes and more are documented.
There is an additional manuscript being written about the effectiveness of the Watch program. More on that soon.