Tokyo COVID-19 Countermeasure: "Follow-up Center for At-home Patients"

"Follow-up Center for At-home Patients" provides medical and livelihood support to COVID-19 patients being treated at home in fight against COVID-19.

Large portion of COVID-19 cases are of mild or almost no symptoms. Generally, patients with mild or no symptoms are treated in Designated Hotels, but as the number of cases increase, more and more are being treated at home.

In a case where you are unfortunately infected with COVID-19 and are being treated at home, there are some you concerns may have mind:

"Will I be able to go out for grocery shopping?"

"I hope I don't infect my family"

"What should I do if my symptoms escalate suddenly?"

To address these concerns, the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) established the "Follow-up Center for At-home Patients" (only in Japanese) in November 2020. The Follow-up Center provides the following types of support:

  1. Daily health monitoring with LINE App or via telephone
  2. Grocery delivering during at-home treatment period
  3. 24-hour consultation service for at-home treatment
  4. Pulse oximeters (blood oxygen saturation meters) lease (free-of-charge)

We interviewed Yoshitaka Honma, Director for the Tokyo Center for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention (only in Japanese), Infectious Disease Control Division, Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, TMG, about the purpose of establishing the "Follow-up Center for At-Home Patients."

"Patients who are eligible for at-home treatment are under 65 years old, have no underlying medical conditions, and thus determined to be at low risk of aggravation. However, that does not mean you won't be anxious when infected with the COVID-19, so we started preparing in September 2020 and opened the center in November to support Tokyo residents." said Honma.

Thus far, individual health centers have been responsible for at-home COVID-19 patients in providing health monitoring and other types of support for people receiving treatment at home. To reduce the extreme workload, the TMG has decided to establish its own "Follow-up Center for At-home Patients" which mainly focuses on daily health monitoring.

"Being treated at home is no guarantee to your symptoms not escalating, which is why health check-ins are done frequently. Automated messages are sent twice a day via LINE App to those receiving medical treatment at home to check on their health condition. This is one way we have reduced the staff's workload. Of course, we offer the same service via telephone, for people who do not use LINE."

The biggest problem for people being treated at home, however, is grocery supply.

"If you are recovering at home because you were diagnosed with COVID-19, you will not be able to go shopping. You can get by if you live with your family or have friends who can help you, but there are a lot of people living by themselves. This makes it challenging to have healthy meals every day. We support those people by offering free delivery of a week's worth of groceries while they are recovering at home."

One week's worth of grocery supply.

In addition, a 24-hour "Consultation Desk for At-home Patients" has been established, where nurses are always available for medical consultations. From April 2021, at-home patients whose health deteriorates can be connected with local doctors online, as well as via telephone and house calls. Thus far, 8,132 health observations and 10,948 grocery deliveries have been made since the center's opening six months ago.

Online medical consultation in session. (Session simulation. This is an image photo. Not actual patient)

Healthcare professionals making home visits to at-home COVID-19 patients (with medical-grade oxygen). (Photo by Fast Doctor Co., Ltd.)

With the support from experts, the TMG has compiled a handbook guide intended to help people receiving treatment at home. It provides easy-to-understand explanations of things to keep in mind regarding at-home treatment, as well as a list of eight precaution items for preventing infection at home. 

Those who have used the Follow-up Center have shared positive feedbacks, saying that they have received advice and encouragement over the phone, making their sick days easier. On the other hand, some people have asked for faster delivery since the groceries take about two days to be delivered after request is raised.

It is consoling and heartening to see the efforts of the TMG in dedication to reduce the worries and troubles of at-home COVID-19 patients and their families.

For more information about COVID-19 in Tokyo, please access the following links;

Text: Kyousuke Akasaka, Translation: Vincent Gan