New Law Enables More N.J. Residents to Receive 'Hospital at Home'
January 23, 2024 - Those with private, commercial health insurance or Medicaid are now eligible to receive comprehensive, acute care at home.
Virtua Health is among N.J.’s largest providers of Hospital at Home
An emerging form of health care that enables patients to receive hospital-level services at home is now available to many more New Jersey residents, thanks to a law enacted today (Jan. 23).
Called Hospital at Home, this care model is now available to both Medicaid participants and people with private, commercial health insurance, when medically appropriate. Previously, Hospital at Home was only available to those enrolled in Medicare and some Medicare Advantage programs, through a federal waiver. The new state law, resulting from the Hospital at Home Act, allows this expansion and invites insurers and health systems to work together toward implementation.
Virtua Health is among the nation’s earliest and New Jersey’s largest providers of Hospital at Home, which is available through its five South Jersey hospitals in Burlington and Camden counties. Virtua’s leaders have witnessed its many benefits and advocated for the expansion and development of this emerging care model.
“We are excited to see Hospital at Home expand in New Jersey through this legislation, and we believe our state can serve as a template for the rest of the country,” said Michael Capriotti, MBA, senior vice president of integration and strategic operations for Virtua Health. “It is important that we continually innovate to create the best possible experiences and outcomes for our patients.”
Hospital at Home enables eligible patients to heal from the comfort of their home while receiving comprehensive, hospital-level care – including both in-person and remote visits with health care providers, and devices to help monitor patients’ health remotely. Such programs can bring many benefits, including fewer hospital readmissions and hospital-acquired infection, improved patient mobility, higher patient satisfaction, lower costs, and shorter hospital stays.
Blackwood resident Candance Luthe was thrilled to participate in Hospital at Home during an admission for COVID-19 at Virtua Voorhees Hospital in May 2023.
“You get to sleep in your own bed. You get to sit on your couch with your dogs and family all around you,” said the retired nurse. “You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Signed by N.J. Governor Phil Murphy, the Hospital at Home Act was sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, MD, and Senator Joe Vitale. Virtua Health supported the legislation by having its in-house experts present quality metrics and learnings to government officials and regulatory groups.
“As an early adopter, Virtua Health has one of the largest and most established Hospital at Home programs in the country,” said John Matsinger, DO, MBA, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Virtua Health. “Our project leaders and care providers are often tapped for their expertise and insights – and we strive to advance the evolution of this model of care.”
Two-Year Milestone for Virtua Health
Marlton-based Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system, launched its Hospital at Home program exactly two years ago in January 2022 – largely to address the strain caused by the Omicron surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has since expanded to all five Virtua hospitals and many other conditions. To date, Virtua’s Hospital at Home has enrolled more than 900 patients representing 60-plus distinct medical conditions, including pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), urinary tract infection, and congestive heart failure.
Patients with special needs beyond their acute medical condition – such as dementia, autism, limited mobility, or visual/hearing impairments – can particularly benefit from healing in a familiar environment with the support and supervision of loved ones.
Virtua’s program receives overwhelmingly positive feedback from patients, their families, and health care providers, noted Raul Berio-Dorta, MD, the program’s medical director. For example, 83% of participating patients reported they would recommend Virtua’s Hospital at Home to others.
“Our program has helped patients restore their health from home – surrounded by the people, things, and even pets that provide such needed comfort. Our care teams connect with them in person and remotely and ensure their needs are met,” said Dr. Berio-Dorta.
“Hospital at Home is also a benefit to health systems,” added Kristin Bloom, MBA, BSN, RN, Virtua’s assistant vice president for the program. “Right now, when respiratory viruses are surging and patient volume is soaring, we can invite certain individuals to heal from home – reserving coveted hospital beds for those who are most ill.”
While each person’s care plan is specific to the individual, every participant experiences:
- Twice-daily visits from Hospital at Home staff
- Remote monitoring using a variety of Virtua-issued devices, including an armband that tracks vital signs -- including heart rate, respiratory (breathing) rate, and oxygen levels within the bloodstream.
- Routine remote consultations with a physician or other licensed provider
- Around-the-clock support from the Hospital at Home Command Center
- Easy-to-heat nutritious meals, if requested
- Relevant clinical and ancillary services that would otherwise be provided in the hospital, such as imaging, pharmacy, lab, and physical therapy
A Patient’s Perspective
Candance “Candy” Luthe enrolled in Hospital at Home after a few days of inpatient care following a surgery.
“I was going to need to stay [in the hospital] an extra couple days for IV medication – and I was stir-crazy,” she explained. “When they presented me with the option of Hospital at Home, I said, ‘That sounds fun!’”
A Virtua nurse followed Candance home from the hospital and, together, they reviewed the equipment and care plan. Candance discovered the devices were easy to use and took comfort in knowing she could instantly contact a Virtua team-member at any time using the Virtua-issued touch-screen tablet.
Candance was so enthusiastic about her experience with Hospital at Home that she volunteered to participate in a testimonial video created by Best Buy Health, the manufacturer of many of the medical devices Virtua Health uses for the program.
“I cannot say enough good about this program,” Candance said. “It was wonderful.”