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Remote Recovery Program Allows Those Battling COVID-19 To Heal At Home

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hundreds of patients who would otherwise be battling COVID-19 in the hospital are instead getting better at home.

As the Senior Pastor at Woodland Hills in Maplewood, Greg Boyd's services moved online months ago.

"We went by the CDC guidelines -- we social distanced, wore masks," Boyd said.

Despite the 63-year-old's best attempts to avoid it, he came down with COVID-19 in mid-October.

"I've never had anything quite like it," Boyd said.

Just when he thought he was through the worst of it, Boyd struggled to breathe. He ended up at United Hospital's ER, where he was admitted but given a choice:
stay there for care, or go home with the gadgets you need to get better.

"I'm a little intimidated by that I just don't like mechanical things, but it was just so simple. Basically push this button, that button, and you're good to go," Boyd said.

Rachel Kuhnly is a strategy and business development consultant for Allina Health.

"We're freeing up hospital beds for the sickest patients and those other patients get to recover in the comfort of their own homes with their loved ones," Kuhnly said.

Kuhnly runs Allina's Hospital Home Care Program. Developed before the pandemic by her Master's program at the University of Minnesota, they believed treating sicknesses -- such as COPD, pneumonia, and some heart problems -- is possible at home.

"They thought it was a great idea but they really didn't implement it until COVID became the impetus for implementation," she said.

A paramedic helps to set the patient up at home, in Boyd's case with an iPad, oxygen and oximeter. A nurse stops by daily along with a virtual visit later in the day. All the while, his vitals are monitored if anything goes wrong.

"There's a lot of services just to check in on the patient and make sure they're safe," Kuhnly said.

Since May, Allina has treated nearly 500 patients this way -- like Boyd, all with success so far.

"If it's possible to be cared for in your home, I think you should be cared for in your home," he said.

Allina currently offers the home recovery program at five hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area. It's expected to be offered at other regional sites soon. There are some other Minnesota hospital systems offering something similar for COVID-19 patients.

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