Doctors finding ways to send non-critical COVID-19 patients home sooner

The pandemic has pushed doctors to find new ways of caring for COVID-19 patients in and out of the hospital, and new treatments allow some to go home sooner and free up bed space as cases rise.

Eyes are on COVID-19 patients 24 hours a day at the hospital, but doctors are finding ways to safely send them home, giving patients mobile technology and keeping watch from there.

"If I can send you home with a pulse oximeter, some kind of biotechnology wearable where I’m getting all that data, all those vital signs fed back to somebody 24 hours a day, and you don’t need oxygen at the moment, maybe you can do that at home versus be in the hospital," said Dr. Jason Wilson, associate medical director of the emergency department at Tampa General Hospital and associate professor at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

The need for hospital beds is growing with the current coronavirus surge in Florida. Dr. Wilson said TGH is set up to care for patients outside the hospital works.

"We think right now probably six or seven people are able to go home who would have been hospitalized before, and part of that is because we’re able to give them supportive care and monitoring," said Wilson.

Better treatments for COVID patients help too. Inside the hospital, Dr. Wilson said patients now get remdesivir to fight the virus. And outside the emergency room, doctors use antibody shots.

"We’re getting those people who have higher risk set up for these therapeutic antibody infusions now those work best for people who are older over 65, or maybe younger [people] but they have what we call comorbidities, risk factors for a worse outcome," said Wilson.

Doctors say a patient’s needs can change at any moment once they leave, so they want several options to choose from.

"Hopefully as time goes on we’re going to see more and more of these therapeutics start to materialize," said Wilson. "We didn’t really have any evidence-based tools that have gone through some kind of scientific testing that showed to help people. We didn’t really have many of those available to us to help people outside the hospital."

Dr. Wilson said they are tracking their at-home treatments, so they know what works.