“Flu SWAT” teams mobilize to treat patients at home

Members of the “Flu SWAT” team at CLSC de Parc-Extension. Front row, from left: Nurse Practitioner Anne-Sophie Dubuc, Nurse Clinician Caroline Belle (holding a portable PCR testing device) and Elisabeth Laughrea, Program Manager for Home Care. Rear, from left: Assistant Head Nurse Georgia Papadopoulos, Family Physician Dr. Louis-Bruno Théberge and Family Physician Dr. Haley Butcher.
Members of the “Flu SWAT” team at CLSC de Parc-Extension. Front row, from left: Nurse Practitioner Anne-Sophie Dubuc, Nurse Clinician Caroline Belle (holding a portable PCR testing device) and Elisabeth Laughrea, Program Manager for Home Care. Rear, from left: Assistant Head Nurse Georgia Papadopoulos, Family Physician Dr. Louis-Bruno Théberge and Family Physician Dr. Haley Butcher.

They move quickly, act tactically and address urgent situations through concerted action. Meet our CIUSSS’s “Flu SWAT” teams, who treated patients at home during the flu season.

Launched last December, these “rapid intervention teams” of nurses and doctors cared for patients who had flu-like symptoms, all in the safety of their home. In only 2½  months, 138 patients were able to avoid a trip to a hospital emergency department, thanks to the teams’ interventions.

“We were able to offer them care that responded to their urgent needs, without them having to leave the comfort of their home,” says Elisabeth Laughrea, Program Manager for Home Care at CLSC de Parc-Extension.

These CLSC-based teams, which operate within SAPA Home Care, were a boost during the flu season for homecare clients with diminished autonomy. They took a proactive approach: A dedicated phone number was provided to families and homecare workers if patients experienced flu-like symptoms such as coughing, muscle aches or respiratory troubles. Calls were answered seven days a week by an Assistant Head Nurse who evaluated each case and determined whether immediate attention was needed.

Nurse Clinician Caroline Belle, assigned full-time to the Flu SWAT team at CLSC Parc-Extension, visited the patient’s home the same day if required; she was able to carry out testing and, depending on results, call in a prescription to a pharmacy to ensure quick access to antiviral medication. Ms. Belle could also consult a physician on the CLSC home care team to obtain a chest x-ray.

Patients requiring additional monitoring had access to Virtual Care nurses 24 hours a day.

“Patients and their families were so happy to have me there.”

Nurse Clinician Caroline Belle

“A lot of them wanted to avoid emergency rooms and felt reassured that someone was in their home to help,” Ms. Belle says. “It allowed me to be a bridge toward acute care if the patient needed it.”

Ms. Belle and the team also relied on a critical new tool, acquired especially for the Flu SWAT team: A portable PCR testing device, known as Cobas Liat, that could determine whether the patient had COVID-19, a strain of Influenza A or B, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a leading cause of respiratory disease. The leading-edge technology by Roche Diagnostics provides a diagnosis in just 20 minutes.

The Flu SWAT team initiative reflects our CIUSSS’s philosophy of Care Everywhere—the approach of providing the right care at the right time at the location that is safest, most appropriate and most convenient for users.

Amina Talib and Habiba Boutaleb, respectively Director and Associate Director for SAPA Home Care, expressed pride in the project and the “dynamic” teams that made it possible.

“In addition to the positive feedback from users, we have a team of clinicians who are committed and valued for their expertise in delivering care to users who face a loss of autonomy, all in the comfort of their home,” Ms. Boutaleb says.

Partners in CIUSSS West-Central Montreal were crucial to the Flu SWAT teams’ success.

The Directorate of Quality, Transformation, Evaluation, Value, Clinical and Organizational Ethics and Virtual Care—led by Erin Cook and Dr. Lawrence Rudski (Medical Director of Virtual Care)—helped launch the initiative by providing project-management experience and coordination through the C4 Command Centre. This helped transform the project “into the incredibly innovative product that it became,” Dr. Rudski says.

Additionally, the team supported the project’s integration into existing virtual care trajectories and it ensured that members could measure the value created by the initiative.

Nursing Consultant Patricia Robitaille also provided support by developing specialized training modules to help clinicians evaluate home care patients with acute health conditions.

Meanwhile, the Flu SWAT project team was able to meet senior partners at Roche Diagnostics and secure, in only two days, the necessary technology and support for the project’s deployment.

“The project was operational within two weeks of our first brainstorming meeting.”

Dr. Lawrence Rudski

The Flu SWAT project is seen as a step toward the launch of Acute Home Care (SAD Aigu, for Soutien à domicile aigu), which would use a similar approach and treat other acute healthcare needs for patients at home. “This again shows that when a need is identified in our CIUSSS, we can rapidly mobilize and work as a team to find innovative solutions to serve our clients and patients,” Dr. Rudski says.