Spending less time at the hospital: New approaches in medicine mean patients often get to go home sooner

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2018

As technology changes and medicine continues to advance, patients are offered more care options that make their lives a little bit easier.

When Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center expanded last year, one of its new features was a transitional care and infusion services area built from the ground up.

This type of care provides a better experience for patients, said Teresa Carter, emergency room nurse manager at Clemmons Medical Center, who was a member of the unit’s design team. “Our patients may spend five, six, eight hours in these chairs, so we want them comfortable,” Carter said.

The transitional care area also has lots of natural light and it overlooks a healing garden, where patients can walk while receiving infusions via portable machines. Food can also be brought in from the café.

“Most of the time with infusion services you see the need and you find the space in your facility where you can start up the service,” Carter said. “But for Clemmons, we focused on what the patient needed since we could build it, and that’s what we did. It means having the services closer to home.”

What is transitional care?

Transitional care gives patients who are home from the hospital easy access to the Novant Health team in the event that they need care. Transitional care is used often for conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, as well as for bariatric patients who need fluids after surgery, said Julie Schaefer, emergency room nurse manager at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center emergency department, a hospital offering similar services.

Another recent trend, which is related, is increased access to outpatient infusion services.

Where infusion services fits in

Infusion services, which typically offer intravenous treatments, vary across Novant Health hospitals. For instance, patients at Kernersville Medical Center can receive blood transfusions, IV fluids, port/catheter management, and infusion and injections for conditions like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and asthma. The treatments are provided in a new room with 10 infusion chairs. Cancer-related infusion services in Kernersville are offered on the hospital’s campus at Novant Health Oncology Specialists — Kernersville.

“Transitional care and infusion services weave together in that we have a lot of patients who are admitted with an infection like cellulitis, which typically requires IV antibiotics of a certain length of time,” Schaefer said. “Previously, those patients were being admitted to the hospital. But what we offer in the infusion center is they never have to be admitted or they can be discharged early.”

Where this kind of care is going

Schaefer said she expects the need for such services will grow. “The older our population gets the more chronic illnesses we tend to experience,” Schaefer said. “And a lot of the medications for chronic illnesses are incredibly expensive, and they can’t be given at a doctor’s office because they require a specific amount of monitoring. So patients can come into the hospital as outpatients, get their infusions and go home.”

Infusion services at Clemmons Medical Center include:

• Blood transfusions

• Therapeutic phlebotomy

• V fluids for hydration

• Vaccinations

• Port/catheter management

• Infusions and injections for a variety of conditions, such as infections, Chrohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia and asthma