OPAT as a service has been in use in many countries for the last 30 years. It is a method of delivering intra-venous antimicrobial therapy in an outpatient setting, as an alternative to remaining an inpatient.
The advantages of providing this service for the patient means that they have a reduced hospital stay and can return home and rehabilitate in their own environment. In certain cases the patient can continue to work whilst receiving IV antimicrobial therapy therefore causing them minimal disruption to their daily life. Psychologically the patient feels happier, eats better, sleeps better and is more likely to recover quicker in their own home.
In DGRI the service started in 2012 under the “What if?” project. Its main aim at this point was treatment of non-complicated cellulitis leading to the reduction of patient admissions for short term IV antimicrobials. In the intervening years we have developed to become more involved with complicated infections requiring longer lengths of treatment i.e. up to 12 weeks of IV antimicrobials, but the patient is otherwise fit enough return home.
From January 2016 to the end of March 2017 we have released 1419 beds, an average of 3.2 per day. We have treated patients with Cellulitis, Osteomyelitis, Infected Joint Replacements, ESBL, UTI’s, Pseudomonas, Osteoradionecrosis, Lyme disease, Endocarditis, Discitis, Peripheral Vascular Disease, Actinomycosis, SAB, Urosepsis, E-Coli ESBL and Meningioma.
Why do we need OPAT?
In December 2015 a 30 year old man, who we will call John, was referred to us. He is a high functioning gentleman with Spina bifida who regularly competes in Shot Putt events, all over the World. He had been admitted 6 weeks previously with an infection of his hip. He was clinically improving and ready for home. His family were also keen for his discharge. On discharge John was keen to return to weekly training but due the nature of his infection this had to be put on hold. He attended the clinic daily for 12 weeks either at Dumfries or nearer his home at Castle Douglas Community Hospital, even attending on Christmas day. John had a Hickman line in-site and he decided that in order to assist us he would dress according to which lumen we were using, red top red lumen white top white lumen. He made a good recovery and was discharged from us a year ago. John still phones us now and again and had informed us he is back to full fitness, competing again and even throwing further than before. His one regret he told us, was that due to illness he was not selected for last year’s Paralympics but he is working hard to go the next event in 2020.
So why do we need OPAT? To give people like John an effective patient-focused service as good as inpatient care in an out-patient environment. Our aim is to provide patient centred care nearer to home. In some cases we train the patient or their relative/carer to administer IV antimicrobials in their own home, leading to increased independence and putting the patient at the centre of their own care.
Main aims of OPAT.
To provide a high quality efficient clinical service using robust pathways, guidelines and protocols.
Reduce inpatient time and therefore reduce the risk of hospital acquired infections.
Develop the service to meet the changing demands on an overstretched service. With the opening of the new hospital imminent and the call for care nearer to home OPAT can help reduce demands on beds.
Improved quality of life for patients. They eat better, sleep better and generally feel better in the own home environment.
Increase patient involvement in delivery of care, continuity of care and communication.
Provide ongoing support at home and utilise a pathway for re-admission if required.
Reduce the length of inpatient stays therefore utilising acute beds more efficiently.
Structured pathway from referral to discharge.
Patient journey from Inpatient to OPAT patient.
We aim to make the transition from inpatient to OPAT patient as quick and painless as possible but have to follow guidelines. Once a patient has been identified by their Consultant as a potential OPAT patient the first step is to complete an SBAR referral form (In Beacon use ‘search for document’ option). On receipt of this we visit the patient to assess them and their needs for OPAT. There are certain criteria which must be met but these are listed on our SBAR referral form and should be considered prior to referral.
The patient is then seen by our Consultant and the OPAT nurse team. If they are suitable and want to become an OPAT patient then the discharge process can begin.
So in summary OPAT provides patient centred care led by a small dedicated team. It clearly reduces the length of inpatient stays, which can be from 2 days to 12 weeks. Patients are very much involved in the method of delivery of their care, they can opt to be trained to do it themselves at home or we try to deliver care as near to their home as possible. We work around their commitments e.g. an elderly patient who has carers in the morning can get a later appointment or in the case of the patient who continues to work we can see them early in the morning to allow then to get to work. Patients feel better at home, they sleep better, eat better and psychologically feel better. They are more in control of their treatment and have continuity of care.
In the words of one of our patients we “made a bad situation better”.
Audrey Morris & Shirley Buchan are Clinical Nurse Specialists in the OPAT team.