By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
When Mexico’s Previta medical group first came up with the idea of an at-home hospital service five years ago, the concept was primarily geared to treating long-term patients with chronic diseases that required consistent, but not urgent, care.
Then covid-19 came along, and the notion of “Hospital en Casa” (“Hospital at Home”) took on a whole new perspective.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, people were leery to go to the hospital to be treated for anything because they were afraid that they might be exposed to covid, so the idea of Hospital en Casa became especially attractive,” explained Previta medical director Morgan Guerra Gea during a press conference on Tuesday, April 5, to showcase what has become the company’s premiere service.
“We could offer them x-rays, lab tests, full checkups and at-home treatment in the comfort and safety of their own homes.”
Not only that, but Previta, which had already shown a successful track record working with the Mexican government in 2015 with the introduction of its Dr. Vagón Quirófano Hospital Train to provide high-end health care to rural communities and which has been offering preventive care services for over 18 years, managed to convince both private insurers and the Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) government that treating some covid patients at home rather than in a hospital could free up much-needed beds and save money at the same time.
The service, which consists of a triage of visiting doctors (replete with hospital-quality equipment from portable electrocardiograms to oxygen tanks), on-line consultations with specialists and internet-coordinated lab tests and follow-ups, proved to be a godsend in terms of reducing costs, improving outcomes and enhancing patient experiences.
With a network of over 50 doctors in Mexico City and a string of specialists nationwide, Guerra Gea said that Hospital en Casa can attend to between 800 and 900 covid patients at any given time.
“Since the pandemic began in 2020, we have already treated about 9,000 covid patients,” he said, “and the cost is about 20 percent what it would be for a two-week hospitalization.”
Hector Montiel, an urgent care specialist who joined the Previta team after a stint at the ABC Medical Center as head of emergencies, added that in some cases the cost of at-home hospital care could be even lower, as much as 20 times more affordable.
Still, both Guerra Gea and Montiel admitted that not all patients are candidates for Hospital en Casa.
“Basically, we are talking about patients with chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension,” Guerra Gea said.
“We cannot take patients who need intensive care or whose prognosis is very volatile, for example.”
But Guerra Gea said that one area where Hospital en Casa is particularly useful is in the treatment of tuberculosis, which can require up to three months of continued therapy.
Hospital en Casa is also a viable alternative for treating patients in need of palliative care, such as those suffering cancer or renal failure.
But even for simple lab tests, x-rays and emergency care, Previta’s Hospital en Casa can offer affordable, time-saving options for busy people.
“The truth is, nobody wants to be stuck in a hospital, not even doctors,” said Montiel, adding that the psychological benefits of being in your own bed, surrounded by your loved ones and family, can play a key role in recovery.
“This is really the future of medical care.”