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Program provides care and support to employees self-isolating with COVID-19

Since April, 135 Yale New Haven Health employees who tested positive for COVID-19 have participated in a new program that helps them monitor their symptoms and provides care coordination, information and support remotely.

The voluntary program, offered by YNHHS’ Occupational Health and delivered by livingwellCARES, is free for YNHHS employees who have COVID-19 symptoms and test positive, along with employees who don’t have symptoms and test positive, then develop symptoms later.

Each program participant receives a pulse oximetry monitor – a device placed on the end of a finger to check heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood. Participants take three readings each day and log results in their MyChart accounts.

LivingwellCARES nurses review those results, along with any symptoms participants report. They contact program participants by phone or video visits throughout their illness and recovery.

“We’re really proactive in managing symptoms in a holistic manner,” said Laura Flahive, RN, livingwellCARES care coordinator and health coach.

From the program’s April 27 launch through mid-June, livingwellCARES nurses made 1,462 calls and video visits. A number of participants have had pulse-oximetry results and/or symptoms that prompted the nurses to refer them to a physician; some participants’ results and symptoms warranted hospital visits.

Program participant Rhonda Austin, RN, Yale New Haven Hospital Care Management, spent over two months at home recovering from COVID-19. “Having a pulse-oximeter at home was an added plus for me because it allowed me to become an integral part of my treatment plan,” she said. “This program also allowed for check-ins by the nurses to see how I was doing, as well as an avenue for resources that are available to me.”

Austin and Anna Iskra, YNHH pharmacy technician, highlighted another important aspect of the monitoring program.

“Being able to connect live with the nurse was always helpful when I had questions,” Iskra said. “The nurses were very compassionate about my sickness, my symptoms and my worries. They all became my new family for a time. Since I live alone, that was a big deal and helped with my recovery.”

“COVID-19 is such an isolating illness,” said Stacey Lane, RN, livingwellCARES manager of Care Coordination. “We can provide a feeling of safety, a lifeline.”

Participating in the program has been a “wake-up call” for some employees with other health conditions that can make COVID-19 worse, Flahive said. Nurses inform those employees about other livingwellCARES care coordination programs that can help them manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and others.

“It’s our hope that they sign up for livingwellCARES care management programs,” said Jeanette Bogdan, RN, director, YNHHS Ambulatory Care Coordination. “We care about our fellow employees and are here to help.” All employees can sign up for the livingwellCARES free health coaching and care coordination at 1-888-533-3742.