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COVID-19 testing, prehospital services coming to homes

UPMC and Susquehanna Regional EMS have expanded services through the mobile integrated health model, including new at-home COVID-19 tests as well as blood draws and electrocardiograms for preprocedure necessities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This extension will help ease fears as well as make care more accessible, according to UPMC and EMS professionals.

“We have extended COVID testing to patients’ homes so that they do not need to come to the hospital,” Mark Trueman, manager of prehospital services, Susquehanna Regional EMS and UPMC Susquehanna, said.

He added that these services are specifically for anyone who cannot make it in due to mobility reasons, they are elderly or pediatric care, they are unable to make it to a collection center or even for fear of contracting the virus.

Trueman also said that responders visit those who either are referred by their primary care provider or their surgeon with the primary care physician.

Responders will gather specimen via a nose swab test and can be done in the comfort of a separated space in a patient’s own home in Lycoming and Clinton counties as well as out in Tioga, Union and Northumberland counties according to Trueman.

“It’s quick and easy. We do it where they are comfortable,” Tony Bixby, director of prehospital services, Susquehanna Regional EMS and UPMC Susquehanna, added.

It is important to note that the at-home testing with responders is done exactly how it is done on-site with the same tests, responders/medical professionals in personal protective equipment including gowns and universal masking and as much distancing efforts as the process allows.

The tests are then taken to the lab at UPMC Williamsport where results come back as quick as 24 to 48 hours after the test had been taken.

This is extremely important for those in long-term care facilities like seniors or those who are coming into UPMC hospitals for a procedure, according to Rutul Dalal, MD, medical director of infectious diseases.

“There has been issues of people seeking care because of fear,” Dalal said. “They are scared to come into the hospital for fear of contracting the virus. With this service, it takes the care right to their homes and gets it done in a safer manner and it helps them ease the fear of not going out.”

He added that, in terms of senior care, testing in-home can help identify those who may have the virus and not be displaying symptoms.

“If one person gets it there (in a senior care facility), it can spread like wildfires,” he said. “It does help in separating and identifying who is at risk and find appropriate treatments. It is extremely important.”

If tests are positive, responders and their PCP will contact them via telephone to go over details, symptoms, the disease process and appropriate treatment and any further questions a patient might have.

This process is also used for contact tracing, according to Dalal, Trueman and Bixby.

They also will test any law enforcement, EMS responder or person that has been in contact with a person who has tested positive.

“We are reporting our findings and helping them through the course of the illness,” Trueman said.

In terms of those who are preprocedure, UPMC has also been bringing at home COVID-19 tests, blood draws and EKG/ECG tests to patients to ensure that they are safe.

This will allow the patients to only be in the hospital for their procedure, necessary care after the procedure and can return to their home environment much faster than if they were to come in and have their testing done at the hospitals.

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