UAMS Comprehensive Care at Home Provides ‘Pleasant Hospitalization’ for Veteran

By News Staff

Struck with sudden and severe pain due to kidney stones and a kidney infection, he was determined to return to his trusted health care providers for treatment. “I drove 490 miles, leaning over the steering wheel and throwing up,” Richards said of his trip home to UAMS. “Scared my wife to death.”

This visit to UAMS turned out to be different from previous ones. After spending some time in the emergency room and expecting to be admitted to the hospital, Richards and his wife were approached by a nurse with UAMS Comprehensive Care at Home, a new program offered by the health system that brings eligible patients home for care they would otherwise receive in the hospital.

His wife, Olga “Gene” Richards, said, “A lady came to us and said, ‘I would like to talk with you about something. It’s a new program, but we’d like to see what you think about it.’”

With her own strong background in research, Gene Richards continued, “We asked her so many questions. She answered them so professionally, and we knew after speaking with her that this is what we needed.”

After opting into the program, the Richards were sent home with everything needed to treat his kidney stones and infection at home. “They had everything except the CT scan and MRI, but that’s just because they aren’t portable. The nurse was able to do an EKG — she was able to do everything,” Gene Richards said.

“The goal of offering Comprehensive Care at Home is to offer a convenient alternative for patients who can safely receive care at home. In addition, this care option frees up hospital capacity for those patients who truly need inpatient care,” said UAMS Health Chief Clinical Officer Ahmed Abuabdou, M.D. “Care that can be done at home includes labs, diagnostic imaging, supplemental oxygen, wound care, respiratory treatments, IV diuretics, antibiotics, and fluids. Being able to offer all these services in the patient’s home is truly a win-win for UAMS Health and our patients.

“It was such a smooth transition, they were well organized and well-equipped, and the face-to-face (virtual) visits with Dr. [John] Gray were enjoyable,” she added. “The first nurse we had walked in the door, and she became part of the family. She exuded compassion, she was humorous, and she answered all our questions— she was fantastic. All of them were so genuine. And if they said they were going to be here at 10, at 10 you look at the driveway and they’re here.”

Toby Richards

Toby Richards

The Comprehensive Care at Home program was beneficial for Richards and his family. Like many who have served in the military, this decorated Army veteran has a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We believe that this is the best program ever, particularly for people who have difficulty getting out of their homes because of PTSD or any other issues where they’re just not comfortable or have anxiety,” said Gene Richards. “It’s also an excellent program for the caregiver. I never leave my husband when he’s in the hospital.”

The hospital, she says, is a stressful experience no matter how excellent the care is, but for her husband, the unfamiliar surroundings and disruptions to his routine add to anxiety. Even just waiting for answers can add to that, but with Comprehensive Care at Home, “We knew what time we were going to talk to the doctor. It just took all of the anxiety and stress, the ‘when are they going to come in,’ and the ‘wake you up in the middle of the night to take your vitals’ out of it. This was the most pleasant ‘hospitalization’ we’ve ever encountered.

“Even the food — you must have a schedule in a hospital because you’re cooking for a large number of people with different dietary needs. But being at home, if you want something, it’s readily available.”

This familiarity, she says, is especially valuable to patients who are vulnerable to changes in their environment. “Elderly people who get so nervous, and particularly those who have started into dementia, you can’t take them out of their routine, it’s too much of a problem. I know it’s not for every disease or treatment that comes up medically, but for cases like my husband’s, it’s wonderful.”

The Richards are thrilled to know that, going forward, Comprehensive Care at Home is an option for them at UAMS. Gene Richards shares that she often hears friends say they don’t want to see the doctor about a problem because they are worried about being sent to the hospital, and now she tells them about the possibility of returning home to receive their hospital-level care. “Excellent, outstanding, extraordinary — those are words that can be used, but they just don’t cover it,” she said.

Adds Toby Richards, with a chuckle, “I might go back to the emergency room just to get the team back — they made that 490 miles I drove worth it.”