McLaren Lapeer Region ‘RTs at Home’ program garners national attention

A leading-edge program developed by the respiratory therapy department at McLaren Lapeer Region to ensure patients receive the care they need following their discharge from the hospital has demonstrated its ability to keep those patients from having to be readmitted due to complications from their chronic conditions. The success of the program has now earned national attention and recognition from many looking to replicate it.

Dubbed “RTs at Home,” the program arranges home visits by a respiratory therapy navigator for patients living with COPD and had been recently discharged from the hospital. Assessing the patient, the navigator will then direct the patient to care to address any potential complications that could result in an emergency department visit and readmission into the hospital.

Hospitals closely monitor readmission rates — the percentage of patients readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of their discharge — to ensure effective and quality treatment. It also carries a business interest as that metric influences hospitals’ Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rate from the government.

A common chronic condition associated with a 27 percent average readmission rate in Michigan, COPD patients in the McLaren Lapeer Region “RTs at Home” program have a readmission rate of 5 to 8 percent.

“COPD patients discharged from the hospital will always receive follow up, but they are better served if their follow up is more personal and interactive,” said Brian Wicker, director of respiratory services at McLaren Lapeer Region. “This is the leading edge. This is where we need to be heading for our patients’ benefit.”

Having shared their program and its findings to a statewide audience of respiratory therapists, Wicker and respiratory therapist Kelly Long were invited to present to the members of the American Association for Respiratory Care at its national AARC Congress 2022 annual meeting in New Orleans in November.

The pair hosted an hour-long presentation while also inspiring many in-depth questions from the audience, leaving many attendees motivated to follow up with the pair in order to explore launching a similar program at their organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled a surge in telemedicine and other remote health care tools. And although these methods have their benefits, there’s an advantage for patients with chronic conditions receiving face-to-face follow-up assessments.

“Our RT navigator is able to assess our patients on a level that cannot be achieved by remote monitoring, and they and their overall well-being are the better for it,” Wicker said.

Says Long, “We want our patients to thrive at home, and we see the results supporting that goal. Patients do not routinely have access to the services of a respiratory therapist once they’re discharged. We want to change that in order to make this service available to those made vulnerable by respiratory-related diseases. We’re proud of this program and flattered by the response it’s received.”

Learn more about all of the services offered at McLaren Lapeer Region at