When David Shashoua met people on the street or at the office this past summer, they often glanced at his wrist and looked puzzled: Why was he wearing a JGH hospital bracelet, even though he was nowhere near the hospital?
“I explained that I was under the hospital’s virtual roof—but happily on the loose,” a smiling Mr. Shashoua says.
Mr. Shashoua had been a patient in the Virtual Ward, part of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal’s pace-setting program to use digital technology to deliver hospital care at home when it’s appropriate. And his case illustrates the far-reaching impact of the innovation on patients’ lives: Mr. Shashoua was at home with his wife and two children, had friends over, took his dog for walks and even went to work every day—all while being closely monitored by Virtual Care nurses and other professionals in the Virtual Ward (see related article).
“It was fantastic,” the 55-year-old said at his home in Côte Saint-Luc recently.
“Instead of being in the hospital, I was out being productive, and I still had a safety net for my health. I was actually enjoying myself.”David Shashoua
Mr. Shashoua was treated at the JGH this year for a severe drug reaction known as DRESS (Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms), which developed after he underwent an MRI scan. In July, he was assessed by the Virtual Care team and met the criteria to be admitted into the Virtual Ward.
He was sent home with all the tools he needed to monitor his own vital signs. Each morning, before his first cup of coffee, he checked his heart rate, blood pressure, blood-sugar levels and temperature, and shared the details to the CIUSSS nursing team; the same process was repeated after dinner.
After breakfast, he grabbed his IGA shopping bag containing his medication and other medical needs and headed off for a five-minute drive to the CLSC René-Cassin. Mr. Shashoua was outfitted with a battery-powered pump that he carried inside a holster across his shoulder; it was connected to an IV in his arm to deliver antibiotics for a staph infection. The CLSC team replaced the antibiotics bag and, every two days, gave him a blood test.
Mr. Shashoua then drove to the textile wholesale business that he runs in Ville Saint Laurent, taking about 10 minutes during his workday to check in for his daily phone call with the Virtual Care nurses.
At home after work, the doorbell would ring in the late afternoon: It was a JGH delivery person bringing him his medication, a new IV bag and various supplies for the following day.
Mr. Shashoua says the care he received was so professional and attentive that he felt completely confident about his care. Nurses checked in regularly to ask if he’d taken his medication, felt any pain, had slept well, and other health-related questions.
One day, after a blood test revealed the staph infection, he was contacted by the nursing team and told to return to hospital. A taxi, ordered by the hospital, was soon outside his door.
“I felt confident that I wasn’t going to fall between the cracks. I could just pick up the phone and know they’d step in—because, technically, I was still in the hospital.”David Shashoua
Mr. Shashoua had been hospitalized at the JGH on and off this year for about 30 days before entering the Virtual Ward, and the lengthy hospital stays left him feeling like he was “degenerating” and growing weaker, he says. After going home, he says he felt stronger because he was able to resume many activities. And he placed less of a burden on his family because he largely handled his own healthcare regimen, he adds.
His wife, Susan Levinger, agrees. “Going to the hospital every day and looking for parking was taking a toll on me. Having him at home gave me peace of mind,” she says. “I could make his meals and keep an eye on him. I think it’s an incredible program.”
None of it would be possible without the nurses who were available at his fingertips, 24/7, he says. “They’re fabulous—polite, patient, kind. They really go above and beyond.”
“I knew I always had someone I could call. I was under their care,” says Mr. Shashoua, who was discharged from the Virtual Ward in September. “We just did it remotely.”