Heart Health At Home Offers Patient Support

The University of Virginia Health System has a new program that's making it easier for patients to get care. With this innovative method, heart failure patients can now get care from the comfort of their home.

Heart Health at Home is a free program for people who have been treated at UVA Health for heart failure. It provides support by offering home visits from certified nursing assistants. These at-home visits give patients the encouragement and support they need during the first critical weeks following discharge.

During the visit, a nursing assistant will check vital signs, review medications, and talk to the patient and family about diet and exercise recommendations, and answer any questions they may have.

Even though Peter Murphy lives close to the hospital, he said having a nurse come to his home has been helpful.

"I was pretty weak, to say the least. I wasn't getting around very well and it was a big benefit them coming to the house," he said.

He also said having someone come to his home keeps him accountable for staying up with his health.

"They go through a long checklist of how I feel, how have I been doing, have I been taking my medication on time, have I skipped a dose, have I doubled a dose by mistake," Murphy said.

For the medical team, it's beneficial as well. Doing at-home visits gives the nurses a better understanding of how to assist their patients.

"It definitely helps us because we're able to see really what they're doing in their home. What they're eating in their home, who's cooking for them, who's helping them with their medication, so really the overall plan that you miss in clinic," said nursing assistant Kathleena Morris.

Morris works with Murphy on improving his diet. "They've educated me on what and how to eat, how to take the medication," Murphy said.

"Basically it's a lot of education on a low sodium diet and fluid restriction," Morris said. "It's very beneficial. A lot of people struggle with their diet. They think that if you get rid of table salt, they're not really aware that a lot of salt is in prepackaged food or a lot of food in general so that's a big key here as well as medication."

The goal of Morris and Murphy's visits, and of the program overall, is to reduce the re-hospitalization of heart failure patients.

"They still keep their doctor appointments, but if we can get in there and see them pretty frequently we can keep them from being readmitted," Morris said.

Murphy credits Heart Health at Home with helping him to rehabilitate much faster after his hospitalization than he would have otherwise.

"I'm up and around anymore. I went to work shortly after...Well a couple months where as I don't think it would have been quite possible up to that point," he said.

The nursing assistants go to homes within 60 miles of the UVA Health System, as long as the patient doesn't already have a home health program in place. Potential patients are screened for eligibility while in the hospital and notified if they qualify.