Containing the spread of infection has always been a top priority in long-term care. COVID-19 simply increased awareness of the need for strict adherence to prevailing protocols, as well as new guidelines issued by various agencies.
One aspect of federal and state guidance that should be a strong focus for all types of senior living communities — nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities and continuing care retirement communities — is one regarding healthcare personnel monitoring and restrictions.
Restricting non-essential healthcare personnel
In its updated guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends facilities “restrict non-essential healthcare personnel, such as those providing elective consultations, personnel providing non-essential services (e.g., barber, hair stylists), and volunteers from entering the building.” The CDC suggests instead that facilities “consider implementing telehealth to offer remote access to care activities.”
There’s no question the pandemic will give long-term care facilities further pause in considering other ways in which they can prevent the spread of infections; whether a deadly virus, flu or common cold. In addition to implementing comprehensive hygiene, sanitation, use of personal protection equipment, contract tracing and testing policies, it is essential that facilities control the number of visitors – including third-party healthcare professionals. While many facilities immediately began restricting family members and non-essential visitors, they have been slower to adopt a strategy for restricting the number of entering healthcare providers.
Partnership model pays off
There is a solution to the challenge of continuing to provide vital medical services to residents, while still limiting the number of healthcare professionals entering a facility. When healthcare providers align with others on the healthcare continuum, this goal can be accomplished. For example, through a partnership with Certified Home Health Agencies, we at Metro Physical & Aquatic have been able to reduce the number of providers entering those facilities we serve.
Through this model, we provide both Part A and Part B homecare services using fewer healthcare professionals, thereby reducing the risk of infection associated with more people entering a facility. The model also includes placing clinicians that are exclusive to a community to offer yet another layer of protection. The continuity of care in transitioning services from Part A to Part B is never interrupted and other benefits are also derived.
Specifically, this model helps optimize long-term treatment planning and assists in the reduction of preventable hospitalizations. Additionally, it supports the better alignment of treatment philosophies and plans between nursing and physical therapy. This same model can be adopted by healthcare providers offering other services provided in-person, onsite at senior living facilities.
The way ahead
Over the past decade, we’ve seen the healthcare industry adopt many new value-based healthcare models, ranging from Accountable Care Organizations and Patient-Centered Medical Homes to Physician Hospital Organizations. There is also, of course, telemedicine, which has been increasing at a steady pace, fueled recently by the pandemic. Just as these new models have proven to deliver added value to healthcare and patient outcomes, so too would a partnership model contribute to the protection and greater well-being of long-term care and senior living residents.
Michael Mayrsohn, DPT, OCS, is CEO of Metro Physical & Aquatic Therapy in Garden City, NY, a provider of comprehensive therapy and wellness services with locations on Long Island, New York and Florida.