According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness and death associated with COVID-19. Patients in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are very likely to fall into not one, but both of those categories, making them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there have been over 142,000 confirmed SNF resident cases, over 90,000 suspected cases, and over 38,000 deaths through July 12. To control the pandemic, CMS is requiring SNFs to report data to the CDC, and to residents and their families and representatives—or risk hefty fines.
Testing: Just One Piece of the Puzzle
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will be sending point-of-care test kits and instruments to 2,000 SNFs in COVID-19 hotspots—enabling rapid screening of residents and staff. However, according to Skilled Nursing News, this is just one piece of the puzzle:
“Skilled nursing operators and infectious disease experts have expressed optimism about the government’s push to send point-of-care testing tools and test kits to facilities across the U.S. But they also emphasize that it’s one only tool among many that SNFs need to be deploying as they try to keep COVID-19 out of their facilities.”
While the tests are less reliable, they’re also less expensive and deliver faster results than other forms of testing—which is critical to quickly addressing outbreaks among vulnerable patient populations.
Filling in the Gaps with Care Collaboration
Enabling and improving the timely flow of data between care teams is critical to protecting both patients and staff. An article in the Annals of Long-Term Care explains:
“While CMS has long pushed for greater interoperability between care partners, many SNFs aren’t taking advantage of opportunities to improve care transfers. It’s not atypical for SNFs or HHAs to spend hours calling hospitals, trying to fill in the gaps in a patient’s recent health history. This is precious time that could mean the difference between providing essential follow-up care and sending a patient to a hospital emergency department (ED) for a flare-up that could easily have been prevented onsite. The difference in risk between these scenarios increases the potential for COVID-19 infection and—when the patient returns to the SNF for care—leaves SNFs vulnerable to an outbreak.”
Real-time communication between hospitals and SNFs—along with other care providers such as home health, primary and specialty care, and ACOs—creates an opportunity to proactively address risks, coordinate care for COVID-19 patients, and make more informed care decisions. But the benefits of coordinating care go beyond the current pandemic.
Moving Towards a Post-Pandemic World
Nearly 20 percent of all Medicare hospital discharges result in a remission within 30 days. Preventing even 10 percent of these has the potential to save Medicare $1 billion per year while also helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 as long as the pandemic continues.
Senior healthcare and assisted living provider, Marquis/Consonus Companies implemented care collaboration technology across some of its Oregon-based facilities to improve visibility into the care continuum and better support patients.
When a patient is registered at an ED or hospital, Marquis receives a real-time notification— enabling staff to reach out and discuss care options—whether that’s readmitting the patient to the SNF or coordinating a care transition after they’ve been discharged. These alerts have helped Marquis reduce readmissions by 60 percent in less than six months.
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