By Kate Wallace, LPN, EMHL, JD
COVID risk management is critical for long-term care facilities. Over 540,000 people associated with 21,000 long term care facilities have been infected with COVID-19. Unfortunately, another leading vaccine candidate in stage-3 clinical trial is on hold because of a patient illness. COVID will be a challenge for long-term care facilities for years.
Complicating the challenge is the reality that the long-term care industry’s safety and risk management processes are slow, manual, inefficient, and not nearly as safe as it should be.
In the midst of the worst healthcare crisis our country has faced in a hundred years, a majority of long-term care facilities are still using 19th century paper-based audits and checklists to track PPE inventory, visitor check-ins, and staff COVID-19 self-checks. Some of this mountain of paper data is converted into 20th century emails, spreadsheets, and slides. It’s not just an administrative mess, it’s also a huge time waster for caregivers who have more important things to do – like patient/resident care.
The inefficient process also creates faulty and incomplete source data. It creates errors when the data is entered into spreadsheets. The spreadsheets and reports get lost in a flood of missed emails. And in the end, the data is too old to act on.
The infection control process is also too narrow in scope. COVID risk management is not just about testing and resident-centric activities to minimize spread. There are many other elements. Very few are conducting facility-wide risk assessments. Take a quick guess – how many COVID risk points are there in a LTC facility? 20? 30? 40? More? (Answer below).
LTC facilities need to consider a more structured, systematic approach to risk and safety management. Akin to the EHR transition over the past 20 years, there needs to be a more digitally-driven approach to risk assessment, risk mitigation, inventory management, and compliance. COVID will be with us for a while and we need to go beyond the initial “triage response” stage and build a sustainable way of managing risk and infection controls. With more comprehensive risk assessments. With concrete and accountable mitigation action plans. With digital COVID symptoms checks. With more frequent (but faster) compliance audits. And with real-time reporting.
Risk areas in CareSafely’s risk assessment platform: 79 for Skilled Nursing & Memory Care; 66 for Assisted Living; and 36 for home health.