Partnering to Support COVID-19 Patients Recovering at Home

When coronavirus hit Colorado, a long-standing relationship between Denver Health and Project Angel Heart led to a unique way to support people with COVID-19–and avoid a potential hospital bed shortage in Denver.

Early in the COVID-19 public health crisis, hospitals in some parts of the country began having capacity issues. In response, Denver Health devised a program to help avoid a potential hospital bed shortage in Denver. They created the Virtual Hospital at Home (VHH) program to provide care for patients whose COVID-19 symptoms were less severe and could be managed by providing telemedicine and medical equipment within the home.

But what about food? Denver Health staff members found many patients couldn’t be admitted to the program because they were food-insecure or didn’t have a family member or friend who could shop for food while they were required to be in quarantine.

“This illness is scary for our patients who are home alone and isolated,” said Stacy Altman, RN care coordinator for Denver Health’s Eastside Adult Clinic. “Some of them have no one to help them get food or make meals.”

Thanks to past partnerships, Denver Health and Project Angel Heart already knew that they could address this problem by working together.

“We have had a great relationship in the past and our patients have been very happy with the meals and care they receive,” said Altman. “We knew our VHH patients would need this same great care and are grateful to this program.”

Project Angel Heart now provides a week or more of medically tailored meals to individuals who need nutritional support while participating in the VHH program. The meals are delivered by Project Angel Heart drivers following strict safety protocols and the food that patients receive not only helps with their recovery but also helps limit the potential spread of coronavirus in the community by making it easier for these patients to quarantine at home.

While stay-at-home and social distancing measures helped Colorado avoid a hospital bed shortage in April, public officials are not ruling out another surge of cases. If that happens, the program will be available to help alleviate pressure on hospital systems. “Truly from its earliest days, Project Angel Heart has always been a reliable partner, willing to help whenever there’s a need — and there’s always a need,” said Dr. Joshua Blum, medical advisor and program manager at Denver Health’s HIV Primary Care Clinic. “Ultimately, the employees and volunteers of Project Angel Heart are there for one reason only: to serve, figuratively and literally.”