As more and more community members are exposed and tested for COVID-19, more will receive the information that they have been confirmed positive for COVID-19. And most who are confirmed positive will have the same question, "So what happens now that I'm positive?"
For patients who are tested by Augusta Health, the first question that is answered actually is, "What happens while I have a pending test result for COVID-19?" That's because most patients will go home to wait for the results of the test—but they won't go home alone.
Patients tested at one of the Augusta Health facilities, the COVID-19 Assessment Center in Waynesboro or the Emergency Department, are referred to the COVID Care Management Team. This is a team of seven medical professionals, led by Mary Arrowood, Director of Operations for Augusta Care Partners and Kim Galloway, RN BSN, the lead case manager, who connect with every 'pending patient' to be sure their questions are answered and their needs are met.
Even though the turn-around time for test results is much quicker than it was even just a month ago, most patients will have to wait a few days to find out if their COVID-19 test result is positive or negative. Only those patients who have clinically severe symptoms are hospitalized. Those with milder symptoms are sent home to recover.
"Every morning, we receive a report of those patients who received a COVID test within the past 24 hours," explains Arrowood, "and we contact them by phone, even on weekends. We want to answer any questions that they have, provide a point of contact for them and let them know we're here to help. After the first call, which should be the day after their test, we follow up with them at least every three days until their test results are known."
"Each patient receives discharge instructions after their test," says Galloway. "So we start by reviewing those instructions to see if there are any questions about them. The instructions include information on isolation and cleaning, which might be a little different from patient to patient depending on who else lives in the home with them. We also ask questions to see if they have any needs: Do they have food? Do they have any medications they need? Is there someone to care for them if they feel sicker? We can also put them in touch with their doctor and facilitate virtual appointments, although we have not needed to do that yet."
"We like to be sure everyone has a plan for support," adds Arrowood. "And if they don't have a plan, we can connect them with the resources they need to establish that plan."
A typical day for the COVID Care Management Team varies, depending on how many call there are to make—"I don't think we've had a typical day yet. They've each been much different that the day before," says Galloway—but Arrowood says they have worked with more that 165 patients since establishing the team at the beginning of April.
They do let patients know if their result is negative. If the result is positive, though, the Team allows the patient's provider make the initial phone call with results, but then follow up with a phone call from the Team shortly after.
"We want to touch base again, after the provider, to answer any questions the patient might have at that point," says Galloway. "Most want to know if there are any additional symptoms they should watch for, and what to do if they start to feel worse. We answer those, and also reinforce social distancing. Once a patient is confirmed positive, they should not leave home unless they need medical attention."
Galloway adds, "We also let them know that they will now be contacted by the Health Department, who will be tracing their contacts and providing them with information on how long they need to stay isolated." The Health Department is responsible for contacting those who may have been exposed by the patient and for determining how long each patient should stay in isolation.
"We also always give them our contact information so they can get in touch with us whenever they feel the need," says Galloway. "Our team is a personal link to the healthcare system. People seem to really appreciate that we're here. Most are scared and a bit overwhelmed. They feel a bit better knowing there is someone they can reach out to and call whenever they need to."
Augusta Health's COVID Care Management Team is one of the new programs and services established by Augusta Health to help the community manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Others include the COVID-19 Assessment Center to consolidate COVID-19 testing and possible exposure to COVID-positive patients at one facility—providing consistency in testing procedure and safety to patients and staff by minimizing their exposure. For information on these, and other programs and services, please visit the Augusta Health coronavirus page.