Remicade via Home Health

I recently wrote about how all of my non-immediate, non-essential doctors appointments have been transitioned to telehealth since March, 2020, when COVID-19 became widespread in the US.

Can I safely get my biologic infusion during COVID-19?

Many of my providers truncated their in-office hours or paused them completely, offering only virtual meetings and consultations, and I felt grateful for the ability to reduce my risk of contracting the virus. However, as a Crohn’s patient who has been on Remicade for 3+ years, my first question to my provider was how can I continue to safely get my infusions?

Previously, I’d been getting my infusions every 6 weeks at an infusion center with specialized nurses, but there were always a few other patients in the center at any given time alongside the staff. When the shelter-in-place orders came out, I was determined to leave my home as little as possible.

Being immunocompromised this year has felt really hard, and I’ve scrutinized every decision needed to be made on what truly was safest for my health and my family. This led me to inquire about home health.

How to start getting infusions at home?

For me, the first question went to my doctor. When she agreed that she would be happier with the option of home infusions for me, I reached out to my insurance company. I found out what was available within my benefits, and the ways in which rules were being modified due to the global pandemic. My insurance company provided me a list of home health agencies in my area that were considered in-network and told me that I had to connect with one and then submit the paperwork.

About 12 phone calls later, I had identified a home health agency that was able to take me on as a patient. My doctor sent the prescription to the home health agency, and they sent the necessary information to the insurance. Once I had insurance approval, the agency had to assign a nurse who was trained in the type of infusion I needed (Remicade) and the method of administration (via surgical port) and then she connected with me to schedule my first appointment.

What is it like getting an infusion at home?

I was honestly worried about in-home infusions because I thought my boundaries and mental health were going to be challenged. I didn’t want my safe, relaxing home space to feel medical or like the place where I got treatment, and I didn’t know what it would feel like to have things like port access kits and saline flushes stored in my bathroom. Would I feel resentful of being a patient at home, more than I already was?

The short answer is no - I did not feel resentful. I actually did not even think or feel anything negative about the experience.

When the nurse arrived for my first home health infusion, I felt nervous. She was incredibly kind and professional, never took off her mask, and gave me a seamless infusion experience. I set up a specific area for us to remain in - similar to what it was like at my old infusion center.

The space had snacks and water for me, water for the nurse, and my laptop to watch a movie. I added a soft blanket and pillow and felt really comfortable while getting my medication. The infusion time was shorter than my previous visits to the infusion center because the nurse was only managing my care and there were no pauses or delays in the IV hookup or routine vitals.

Remicade via home health was a positive experience for me

After the first experience, I was hooked. I was so grateful for the opportunity to avoid the risk of COVID-19 at a hospital, doctor's office or infusion center, and still get the medication so vital to my remaining as healthy as possible.

I spoke with my doctor and my insurance to provide feedback on the experience and to ensure that this type of care would remain an option. My family and I have been quarantined / in social-isolation for almost 6 months now, and to date, I’ve gotten 4 Remicade infusions via home health.

If you’ve used home health before, what were the benefits and challenges for you? Did home health become an option for you during the pandemic? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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