Jo Lawrence. Hospital in the Home, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
Elise is about to have her 8th birthday and has planned a small party at home with her family and two best friends. Elise also has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and is in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. Her next dose of methotrexate is due the day after her birthday but requires pre-hydration the day before….
Thomas is in year 3 and loves playing foursquare at lunch with his friends. He also has CF and requires regular tune-ups of 2 weeks IV antibiotics and physiotherapy…..
MaryKate is an 8 month old and the youngest of 5 children. She has poor oral feeding due to a complex medical background and requires nasogastric top-ups. Her parents have been told that she could wean from the tube if she participated in an intensive multidisciplinary program but are reluctant to attend hospital due to the significant disruption on family routine…..
Is there a way Elise could enjoy her birthday at home, Thomas stay active at school and MaryKate receive the treatment she needs without significant family disruption?
What is Hospital in the Home?
Hospital in the Home (HITH) refers to hospital level care provided in the home environment.
As we look at managing our growing population with a fixed number of hospital beds this is one area of healthcare that is set to boom!
When admitted to HITH, clinicians visit the home and provide the acute care interventions required in 1-2 visits per day. The advantages of this model of care on hospital flow and access are readily apparent. Less obvious, although equally critical, are the substantial benefits for the family and patient. Being treated in a safe place surrounded by familiar faces eases the stress and anxiety experienced by the child. Cost-savings for families obviously include not having to fork out for travel and hospital parking, but the real cost-savings occur for families because both parents no longer have to take carers leave – one for the hospitalized child, the other for the siblings. On average, HITH ends up being one-third of the cost of hospitalization for families1. In addition, HITH avoids disruption to family routines and unwanted separation.
So what can Hospital in the Home do?
Pretty much anything! As long as the patient is clinically stable (not heading for ICU) and can have their care needs delivered in up to 2 visits per day, then it can be done.
Traditionally Hospital in the Home models have centred around IV antibiotics and little else, but that has dramatically changed over the past few years.
Here are some of the common things that paediatric HITHs are currently doing2:
- Diabetes education
- Eczema dressings
- Subcutaneous infusions
- Pre and post-hydration for chemotherapy
- TPN hook ons and hook offs
- Wound dressings
- NG feed support
- Cardiac monitoring
- CF tunes ups
- IV antibiotics
Baseline criteria regarding distance from hospital and safety of home environment exist but solutions exist for almost situations.
Although most centres service a certain distance from hospital, care can often be outsourced for children who live more rurally. The care continues to be managed by the tertiary hospital but provided by local care teams – a superb option.
In cases where a barrier exists for staff to enter the home, creative solutions can be found by meeting children at school, in parks or family member’s homes.
What has changed with Covid-19?
Whilst paediatric hospitals in general saw a fall in patient presentations, HITH referrals have sky-rocketed. Doctors and families have experienced renewed interest in moving vulnerable patients out of hospital walls and away from the potential of cross-infection. Stricter visitor restrictions meant hospitalisation had an even greater impact on family life and the driver to manage care at home wherever possible has grown.
Most of this growth has been through increasing the proportion of eligible children referred rather than creating new pathways. A couple of children have been admitted for observation of Covid-19 infection, but these cases have been few and far between.
However, as with every area of healthcare delivery, the biggest changes for HITH have been moving with the technology. Education visits, medical and nursing reviews and physiotherapy have all been converted to telehealth where safe to do so.
Vaccination for influenza was offered to all patients admitted to HITH and was accepted by 70% of eligible patients. 65% of these were being vaccinated for the first time against flu3. In an environment where routine vaccinations have been falling4, this is a powerful demonstration of the opportunities that exist within HITH.
Infants with bronchiolitis have been managed through HITH before5 but the care pathway has never stuck due to barriers accessing cylinders on the same day and clinician confidence. A new model has been rolled out overcoming these barriers through utilising oxygen concentrators and remote monitoring.
With time, our use of remote monitoring and ability to feed vital signs directly into the Electronic Medical Record, will allow massive expansion of HITH services. Predictive modelling from large EMR datasets will allow more accurate prediction of which children are likely to be safely transferred to the home environment. Realtime data and predictive modelling will enhance clinician and family confidence and enable us to fully realise the benefits of HITH to hospitals and families.
So what about our friends Elise, Thomas and MaryKate….
Elise is able to receive her pre-hydration at home on her birthday. She celebrates her birthday in her parent’s bed with her sister beside her, both building her new lego sets. Her best friends visit and her mother prepares a special meal and bakes a special cake. She is able to go to bed that night, knowing the HITH nurses will visit every day over the following week to administer her chemotherapy and post-hydration and she has avoided another week in hospital.
The HITH nurses visit Thomas daily before school to connect his longline to a Baxter antibiotic infusion. Before and after school he performs physiotherapy via telehealth. At school, he wears his antibiotic in a backpack and can continue to play 4 square at lunch.
MaryKate is visited by the HITH dietitian and speech therapy who provide feeding advice and a regime that fits around the family routine. They can see where MaryKate sits for meals and how her meals are prepared first hand and are able to offer some helpful suggestions. The team are also able to visit MaryKate at her daycare and ensure her routine is consistent. In between visits, MaryKate is reviewed via telehealth by the allied health team. She makes significant oral progress and by the end of 2 weeks, her tube is no longer required.