A nearly $1 million state grant to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside is allowing healthcare workers to reach out to homebound patients to prevent costly hospitalizations.

Although the grant was received last August, the hospital waited until all the details were worked out before officially announcing the project last week.

“It’s a brand-new program, believed to be the first in the nation,” said Jonah Cardillo, senior director of grants and program innovation at St. Mary’s.

The hospital official said it is based on a program that reaches out to homebound elderly patients with health issues. “We are trying to track patients’ conditions and prevent hospital stays, which are costly,” Cardillo said.

A remote patient monitoring program calls families on an average of once a week and asks yes or no questions regarding asthma, respiratory issues, seizures, danger of dehydration and general health.

Parents have a number to call in between calls if they are concerned about the health of their child or they can elect to get the automated messages less often.

The pilot program will include 500 patients. So far there are 450 from Queens, the other boroughs, Long Island and Westchester.

Nurses monitor the calls and based on the answers given, staff can follow up with personal phone calls or visits.

The new program began in October and so far, “it’s been successful and the reaction really positive,” Cardillo said.

Aside from allowing children to stay out of hospitals, it’s less expensive to care for them at home and the system provides better monitoring of care, he noted.

Participating parents, Cardillo added, have found it helpful to gain additional training on equipment they have to use on their children, such as feeding tubes.

“We found that some parents needed additional support,” he said. “It’s been a real positive outcome providing care to improve the conditions at home.

“Taking care of a sick child is time consuming,” Cardillo added. “This is one more way to communicate with them and the more ways we have, the better.”

He said the hospital is working on ways to sustain the program in the future with private funds. The state grant runs out in September.

“We expect this project to produce measurable outcomes in the home setting, reducing the need for intensive medical care for children with multiple chronic conditions,” said Dr. Edwin Simpser, St. Mary’s president and chief executive officer.

The grant will allow the hospital to supplement its existing community programs to enable at-risk children to remain at home with their families, St. Mary’s officials said.

“We believe we are off to a great, positive start,” Cardillo said. “This is a program that could be used elsewhere.”


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