As state and local governments weigh-in on how to reopen their shuttered economies, the post-acute care (PAC) industry needs to proceed with the utmost caution, due to the known characteristics of COVID-19 and the ease with which it’s transmitted. The population that PAC providers serve is among the most vulnerable, with underlying chronic conditions that make patients more susceptible to contracting the virus and experiencing further complications. For restrictions to be lifted and to slow the spread of the virus, these providers will require additional support in the form of increased state and federal funding, widespread testing of patients and staff, and critical personal protective equipment (PPE). Despite an increasing urge to return to a sense of normalcy, doing so must not put PAC patients at increased risk.
Many PAC providers do not have access to widespread, reliable testing or a secure supply of PPE for staff and patients. Without proper testing, it is difficult to detect those infected, and subsequently, to deter the spread of the virus. Given these factors, the decisions to relax social distancing and isolation efforts must be considered carefully and on an individual provider basis, regardless of the status of the surrounding community. PYA has identified six strategies and solutions to help PAC providers safely and carefully resume operations.
TOP 6 Strategies and Solutions
- Re-establishing patient confidence and trust. Effective, clear communication with patients, families, and referral sources about the facility’s post-COVID-19 operations and safeguards is key to rebuilding volume.
- Put infection prevention and control first. Consumers and regulators will demand priority in infection control, which in turn will place more stringent regulations on the PAC industry. Additionally, acute care referral sources will inquire about quality measures (QM) for infection prevention. PAC providers will need to demonstrate proper patient safety and infection prevention measures.
- Ensure adequate staffing models are in place to meet patient care needs. This may be the most difficult strategy to align due to staff sheltering in place with illness or childcare concerns. The biggest hurdle with staffing will be testing individuals for the virus and having procedures in place if staff are working in multiple facilities. PAC providers should continue communication with government authorities and hospitals to stress the necessity of testing to keep the PAC industry afloat.
- Protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19 infection. This includes prioritizing infection control and COVID-19 isolation protocols. Providers must ensure that there is stringent staff training for infection control and appropriate levels of supplies to ensure compliant usage of PPE. As testing becomes more available, prioritize patients and direct care staff.
- Enhance communication channels with referral sources. Once non-essential procedures ramp up, hospitals will need a network of non-COVID PAC providers to which they can discharge patients. PAC operators should fully develop a plan for post-acute discharge options as well as patient transfer and admission procedures to follow. These plans should be communicated with referral sources and patients.
- Deepen re-hospitalization prevention measures. PAC providers should adopt strategies with an emphasis on appropriate care planning, patient safety, and environmental services to prevent non-COVID re-hospitalizations. This is especially true for SNFs and home health agencies where re-hospitalization rates were particularly high pre-COVID-19.
If you would like assistance and guidance related to a restart of post-acute care operations post-COVID-19, or for other COVID-19 guidance, visit PYA’s COVID-19 hub, or contact one of our PYA executives below at (800) 270-9629.