Provider Spotlight: Dr. Tom Luers, Gundersen Health System

Gundersen Health System partnered with Contessa to deliver hospital-level care in the home as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of this approach to care. So, when Tom Luers, MD, joined Gundersen almost two years ago, the practice of hospitalists admitting patients to Gundersen Home Hospital was an expected and integral part of his role. 

“Our last big wave of COVID was around that time,” Dr. Luers says of his introduction to the program. “People weren’t wild about being in the hospital at that time. It was a way to take care of people and get them home, but also allow us to take care of other patients who needed it.” 

In addition to freeing up hospital beds, Gundersen Home Hospital benefits both patients and providers. Dr. Luers notes that generally, patient outcomes are better in the program. He attributes this to several factors. 

“People get better sleep— there aren’t caregivers coming in at random times of the day and disrupting them. They’re back eating the food they’re used to. I think patients tend to recover better, and overall have a more positive outlook on their hospitalization.” 

For providers, “When a patient is having a positive experience, it makes my job easier, too,” Dr. Luers shares. He finds that patients are happy with the opportunity to return home for care. “They often say, ‘I just want to sleep in my own bed.’ It’s especially useful as a bridge for someone who just needs a few more days of IV antibiotics, for example.” 

An established approach to hospital care at home 

Because Gundersen Home Hospital has been delivering this kind of care for the past two years, there has been an opportunity to streamline the admissions approach to easily and accurately identify potential patients who are eligible for enrollment. “We have come a long way as far as how we triage these patients,” he observed. He says the Recovery Care Coordinators “are usually pretty spot-on.” 

Additionally, the equipment Contessa leverages to deliver care in the home is advanced. Dr. Luers notes that although Gundersen has been on the leading edge of telehealth even pre-COVID, “Compared to our typical tele-hospitalist equipment, we’re able to see more, and the nurses are able to do a little bit more as far as helping us out virtually. There was an initial adjustment period, but overall, it’s going really well.”  

A novel concept, but a worthwhile opportunity 

Dr. Luers acknowledges that although Gundersen Home Hospital is a new concept for many providers, it’s an approach with plenty of potential and positives. For providers who may be hesitant about adopting this approach to care, he states, “Initially it takes patience, and sometimes it seems kind of far-fetched. But the care coordination is well thought out, with communication between everyone involved. There’s a good chance for success. I don’t foresee it going away anytime soon.”