A silver lining to the pandemic: At-home care helps patients detect life-threatening illnesses

Thanks to at-home monitoring, Whitney Williams noticed an emerging medical condition during her pregnancy and was able to get help early. Williams, pictured with Emma Rose, four months old.

(CNN)The coronavirus pandemic might have a silver lining.

With fewer in-person medical appointments and more virtual ones, patients are monitoring their health at home and catching potentially deadly signs and symptoms earlier, spurring a movement to get more monitoring devices into patients' hands.
"Covid has lit a fire under us," said Dr. Michael Maniaci, who leads the Advanced Care at Home program at the Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida.
    It's one of several at-home programs gaining momentum because of the pandemic.
    "This opens the potential to re-imagine care in entirely new ways," said Dr. Peter Pronovost, who started an at-home monitoring program for coronavirus patients in Cleveland. "You can make a hospital at home."

    Mom detects her own preeclampsia

    In April, because of Covid-19, Whitney Williams started having fewer in-person appointments with her obstetrician. So the pharmacist from Lexington, Kentucky, decided to start checking her blood pressure daily at home.
    Williams with her daughter, Emma Rose, two weeks old.
    One day her blood pressure was high, and Williams called her doctor, who asked her to come into the office. It turns out she had developed preeclampsia, a disorder that can be deadly for mother and baby.
    High blood pressure is a signature symptom, and because Williams caught hers in time, she and her baby are fine after long hospitalizations.
    "If I hadn't been checking my blood pressure at home and reporting it to my doctor, who knows if I would have made it to the hospital in time?" Williams wrote in a post on BabyCenter.
    In April, the Preeclampsia Foundation started the Cuff Kit program, so far delivering more than 2,500 blood pressure cuffs to pregnant women in seven states.
    Eleni Tsigas, CEO of the foundation, noted that even if doctors return to regular in-person appointments, the cuffs could catch preeclampsia, which comes on suddenly, between visits. Plus, women can check their blood pressure in the weeks following birth, when postpartum preeclampsia can strike and new moms aren't having frequent doctor's appointments.
    The program had been in the works for months, but the pandemic accelerated its launch, Tsigas said.
    "There really is a silver lining to Covid-19," she said.

    A watch-like device helps Covid patients recover at home

    When the pandemic began, Dr. Peter Pronovost, chief clinical transformation officer at University Hospitals in Cleveland, was worried about Covid-19 patients recovering at home, away from careful monitoring.
    So his hospital sent patients a device that looks like a smart watch, which monitors oxygen levels, pulse, and respiratory rate. The data is electronically monitored by a team of nurses.
    Since March, Pronovost's team has distributed more than 1,000 devices to Ohio patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
    The device has already saved the lives of patients like Leonard Frazier, a janitor at a recreation center in Chardon, Ohio. In March, he was at home with coronavirus when his device detected that his oxygen levels were dropping and his blood pressure was spiking. Nurses called him and told him to come the emergency room immediately.
    After a week in the hospital, Frazier recovered and was discharged.
    "Home monitoring opens up a whole new pipeline for better diagnostics and makes these visible so we can connect people to care," Pronovost said. "With the ability to monitor patients' vital signs at home, we can replicate vital signs that are routinely done at the hospital for very low cost at home."
    Pronovost said it's been "striking" how the pandemic has created "'the fierce urgency of now,' as Martin Luther King said. We had to innovate."

    Mayo Clinic starts program with "a lot of Bluetooth devices"

    Doctors at the Mayo Clinic started thinking about an at-home monitoring program a year ago, but only