Safety Guidelines for Discharged Patients with COVID-19
There are thousands of articles about COVID-19. Most detail the signs and symptoms associated with the virus and what to do to protect oneself from being infected.
But, how do we know when a loved one can safely return home after a diagnosis and what precautions should be taken in caring for the recently hospitalized patient?
Fortunately, the CDC has provided a number of guidelines for these patients which can be accessed from the CDC’s website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance).
A hospital is asked to follow these guidelines when deciding to discharge a patient from hospital care:
1. If hospital care is not “medically necessary”, home care is preferable if the individual’s home situation allows. This means that patients can be discharged from the hospital whenever discharge is clinically indicated. Conversely, if a patient’s medical condition is not stable, hospital care is required. Further, even if a patient’s condition is stable, a patient may continue to require hospital care if the patient’s home situation does not allow.
2. The decision to discharge an infected, recovering patient to home must be made by the patient’s clinical team and local or state public health departments after considering a number of factors including:
a. Home suitability (for example, is there a separate bedroom for the discharged patient, without having to share immediate space with others; does the patient have access to food and other necessities in the home; and are there appropriate caregivers in the home to help the discharged patient);
b. Patient’s ability to adhere to home isolation recommendations (for example, does the patient have any conditions that would prevent them from following medical instructions; and is personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, disinfectants available to the patient and caregivers); and
c. Assessment of the potential risk of secondary transmission to household members with immuno-compromised conditions (for example, are there others within the home who contracting an infection would impose a considerable risk, i.e., transplant, cancer patient, elderly patients, pregnant women, or very young babies).
As we venture into many uncertainties involving COVID-19, we need to ensure that we advocate for those affected by the virus which includes not only the discharged patient but their family members. Knowing what is required by regulatory guidelines is one step toward ensuring our loved ones are provided consistent and reasonable care during these trying times.