J Prim Care Community Health. 2022 Jan-Dec;13:21501319211066667. doi: 10.1177/21501319211066667.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims to evaluate the safety, utilization, ability to reduce length of hospitalization and overall outcomes of a COVID-19 virtual ward providing ongoing treatment at home.
METHOD: A retrospective single-center study of patients discharged to the COVID-19 virtual "step down" ward between January 27th 2021 and March 2nd 2021. The referral process, length of hospitalization, length of stay on the virtual ward, readmissions, and ongoing treatment requirements including supplemental oxygen, antibiotics, and/or steroids were all noted.
RESULTS: A total of 50 patients were referred to the virtual ward. 43 referrals were accepted, 39 of which were from the respiratory ward. Four patients were readmitted, all due to hypoxia. All readmissions occurred within 5 days of discharge. 72% (n = 31) were discharged home with an ongoing oxygen requirement. 14.3% of patients were discharged with antibiotics only, 9.5% with steroids only and 23.8% with both antibiotics and steroids. The mean length of hospital stay for patients discharged to the virtual ward was 10.3 ± 9.7 days and 11.9 ± 11.6 days for all covid positive patients during this time. On average, patients spent 13.7 ± 7.3 days on the virtual ward. The average number of days spent on oxygen on the virtual ward was 11.6 ± 6.0 days.
CONCLUSION: The virtual ward model exemplifies the potential benefits of collaborative working between primary and secondary care services, relieving pressure on hospitals whilst providing ongoing treatments at home such as supplemental oxygen. It also facilitates an early supported discharge of clinically stable patients with an improving clinical trajectory by managing them in the community.