By Kate Wallace, LPN, EMHL, JD
The CARES Act was designed to bring public health and economic relief to American citizens when the pandemic struck in March of 2020. The text of the Act itself is over 300 pages. It covers everything from PPP loans for businesses to COVID-19 testing, unemployment benefits, individual stimulus money, to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), and other aspects related to health, agriculture, and funds for state governments. It encompasses over $2 trillion in aid. The bill is extensive, and critical to American infrastructure during such an unprecedented time.
One of the key pieces of this legislation, administered through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to help nursing homes, the senior care industry, and other healthcare entities. This fund is designed to cover COVID-19 expenses related to testing, staffing, infection control, building/upgrading parts of facilities to treat coronavirus patients, equipment, supplies, and technology. The intent of these distributions per HHS is to, “prevent, prepare, and respond to coronavirus.”
The COVI019 pandemic has been a wake-up call around infection control program management. Just like any triage situation, most of the work and funds have been applied to the “respond” part of the HHS mandate (e.g., purchasing PPE, conducting COVID-19 tests).
With the great news around vaccine availability, the pandemic will gradually ease in 2021. With the easing, facilities will need to shift from respond mode to future prevention/preparation mode.
It is abundantly clear that the current approach to infection control management is too manual, too compartmentalized, too narrow in scope, and too slow. Infection control leads, DONs, and administrators need real-time systems to conduct infection control assessments, action plans, checklists, reports, and staff competencies. They need sustainable infection control programs that identify high-risk facilities, functions, and staff before an incident, not after.
They also need to spend less time on the administrative aspects of infection control management. They (and staff) waste precious care time on paper-based checklists and assessments; lost emails tracking action items; hours building reporting spreadsheets.
EHR systems replaced paper-based patient records. Billing software replaced manual invoicing and collections. It is time for the entire infection control/ safety program to be digitized and managed.
The good news is that the CARES Act funds can be used for implementing a comprehensive infection control management system. A system that is sustainable. And a system that can minimize the impact of the next infection control crisis that may not be that far off (think back to Swine flu, Avian flu, and SARS).
CareSafely will host a short webinar on Thursday, January 28th at 2pm EST to discuss how CARES Act funding can be used to strategically improve infection control. Click on this link to register.
About Kate Wallace
Kate is an LPN with a decade of work experience at long-term care facilities. Kate also earned a Masters in Healthcare Leadership and is an advocate for building more effective and affordable LTC business models. She is the Director of Infection Control and Safety for CareSafely. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CareSafely helps senior care organizations protect their seniors and staff by strengthening infection control programs. The CareSafely software and content platform enables organizations to conduct assessments, manage COVID-19 symptoms checks, build risk mitigation plans, audit compliance, and track PPE inventory.