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Achieving success in skilled nursing after COVID-19

After a trying 2020, long-term care leaders must reimagine how to provide care to those they serve. During a recent webinar hosted by WellSky, Teresa Remy, director of clinical services at LeaderStat, reviewed emerging trends and best practices to help long-term leaders position their organizations for success – and most importantly, to ensure patients receive high-quality care – in a rapidly changing industry. Below, we recap some key takeaways from Teresa’s presentation, including best practices for caring for residents with higher acuity levels; workforce shortages arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and strategies for using data to market your long-term care organization to referral sources.

Caring for higher acuity patients

CarePort data shows that the average patient discharged to a SNF is now more acute than in 2019. In the webinar, Teresa shared several best practices for caring for these residents with higher acuity levels, including:

  • For both nursing staff and direct caregivers, training and competency checks should be completed to ensure you’re comfortable with your staff’s skillset, and that staff members are confident in themselves.
  • If feasible, consider adding a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and geriatric physician to your organization’s staff.
  • Ensure active resident participation in care planning to understand a resident’s needs and goals.
  • Though easier said than done, maintaining adequate staffing levels is critical to achieving high-quality care for a higher acuity patient population.
  • Work proactively and communicate with hospitals – and share quality and patient satisfaction data – to improve quality of care and decrease costs.
  • Partner with referral sources to standardize discharge instructions, forms, and communication.

Workforce shortages resulting from the pandemic

Both long-stay nursing facilities and short stay post-acute facilities rely on the labor of 1.2 million health care personnel and support workers. Unfortunately, the pandemic imposed unforeseen demands on nursing home staff, including new infection prevention and control measures such as screening, testing, and isolating residents to minimize transmission and contain the spread of the virus.

Federal and state government agencies – as well as nursing homes – altered their standard policies and practices to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the nursing home workforce. To facilitate the entry of new staff into nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, licensing, credentialing, and training requirements were relaxed by federal and state agencies. Human resources policies were also revised by nursing homes to support workers personally and financially impacted by COVID -19. Wages were increased by nursing homes and state and local governments through hazard pay or a weekly stipend; augmented non-wage benefits such as childcare, housing, transportation assistance, and food support; and mental health support to aid staff in coping with anxiety, grief, and fatigue.

Federal initiatives were also introduced to address workforce challenges, including:

  1. $5 billion in funding through the CARES Act to address critical needs in nursing homes
  2. Rapid point-of-care diagnostic testing devices to prevent COVID-19 from entering and spreading within post-acute facilities
  3. Onsite education and support for facilities experiencing an outbreak

Using data to market to referral sources

Generally, post-acute providers are focused on three primary referral sources: hospitals, patients, and physicians. Prior to sharing data, it’s important to identify the needs of your referral sources. For example, are you leveraging a hospital case manager’s electronic referral system, and is your organization’s profile kept up to date within that system?

During the webinar, Teresa reviewed strategies to leverage data to market your organization to referral sources and community members. Some of those strategies include:

  • To ensure your referral partners are aware of your facility’s level of care, regularly report on and share your facility’s patient outcomes.
  • Review and identify areas of opportunity for your organization within the electronic referral system’s facility scorecard (if such a tool exists).
  • If your organization has an internal tracking system, leverage it to review historical data and uncover the primary reasons that referrals don’t convert to patient admissions.
  • Create a one-page report card with facility highlights and key outcome measures to share with case managers, patients, and physicians.
  • Ensure your facility offers a virtual tour option for patients – such as the virtual tours available in CarePort Guide – and understand how SNFs in your market compare in key measures important to patients.

Watch the on-demand webinar, or read our blog post summarizing the first half of this webinar – which detailed the impact of COVID-19 on acute and post-acute care.

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