COVID-19 Children Safely Treated at Home, Easing Hospital Burden

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Newswise —

Children with COVID-19 can be treated safely at home, helping to take the burden off the hospital system, according to a new study.

The study, headed by Murdoch Children's Research Institute and released in Archives of Disease in Childhood, discovered that children who tested positive for COVID-19 and had moderate symptoms or pre-existing high-risk conditions could be treated efficiently through a Hospital-in-the-Home (HITH) plan. Furthermore, a significant number of unwell children without COVID-19 were given treatment at their residences during the outbreak.

Dr. Laila Ibrahim from Murdoch Children's stated that the initiative alleviated the burden on pediatric emergency departments and aided in the reduction of COVID-19 spread within hospitals in the initial two years of the outbreak.

"Managing children at home is preferable, and due to the contagious nature of SARS-CoV-2, it became even more crucial to attempt to avoid hospitalization for children," she remarked.

"These findings provide reassurance that home-based care has been both safe and effective, regardless of the type of COVID strain, and this eases the load on inpatient care," she added.

The research was conducted on 3719 children between the ages of 0 and 18 years who were referred to HITH care from The Royal Children's Hospital or the Victorian Department of Health between March 2020 and March 2022. Out of these, 421 children were diagnosed with COVID-19, and 3,298 children did not have COVID-19, but both groups received treatment at home, with many of them avoiding hospitalization altogether.

Among the children who tested positive for COVID-19, 63% were considered high risk, and 33% had moderate symptoms. Out of these, only 10% of children were readmitted to the hospital, with just 5% requiring medical intervention.

The research recorded a 21 per cent increase in patients admitted to the HITH program and a 132 per cent jump in telehealth appointments.

Associate Professor Penelope Bryant from Murdoch Children's mentioned that even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the demand for treating children in settings outside of hospitals as an alternative to hospitalization was on the rise.

"The advantages of receiving treatment in a home-based care program include better quality of life for the child, greater satisfaction for parents, and prevention of hospital-acquired infections. We support the idea that whenever feasible, children should receive care at home rather than in a hospital, particularly given the significant impact of the pandemic on children's mental health," she emphasized.

The study also had contributions from researchers at The Royal Children's Hospital and the University of Melbourne.

Publication: Penelope A. Bryant, Joanna Lawrence, Suzanne L. Boyce, Catherine M. Simpson, Gemma Sinclair, Candie Chong, Phillipa Lewis, Stephanie Lee, Rebecca Hughes, Samuel Dalton, Cara Lacey, Lauren C. Nisbet, Tessa E. Smith, Sarah Chapman, Swathi Lakshminarayanan, Kahlia Hurd, Katie Smith, Brenda Savill and Laila F. Ibrahim. ‘Hospital bed-replacement for acute care of children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic through a Hospital-in-the-Home program,’ Archives of Disease in Childhood. DOI: 10.1136/archdischild-2022-325004

*The content of this communication is the sole responsibility of the Murdoch Children’s and does not reflect the views of the NHMRC.

Available for interview:

Associate Professor Penelope Bryant, Murdoch Children’s Group Leader, Infection and Immunity

Dr Laila Ibrahim, Murdoch Children’s Clinician Scientist Fellow, Infection and Immunity

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