Coping with COVID-19: Smart Advice on Moving Forward Safely
In just a few short months, the coronavirus pandemic taught long-term/post-acute care professionals nationwide some challenging and valuable lessons regarding their typical workflows, their facility communications, and the ways in which they provide patient care. Some practitioners embraced them with more success than others, but now, the playing field is even again. Looking toward the future, everyone has an equal opportunity to decide how they plan to prepare for a potential resurgence of COVID-19, keeping both patients and facility staff as safe as possible.
With that in mind, here are six pieces of expert advice from GEHRIMED practitioners who have navigated the pandemic successfully thus far and have clear plans in place to remain ready for what’s to come. Even if the first wave of the public health crisis knocked you off your feet, you have a chance now to learn from mistakes, set a solid foundation, and thrive during these difficult times.
It’s imperative that you have a plan in place before a turn for the worse occurs. From access to personal protective equipment (PPE) to methods of centralizing building access to effective designs for temporary isolation units, every component of your emergency response needs to be documented clearly. Leave no stone unturned in determining exact protocols.
“You’ve got to play chess, not checkers,” said Dr. Frank Newlands from Physician Services Group of South Carolina. “You can’t be one step ahead – you need to be three or four steps ahead. I feel very confident that we have a plan. Do I want to go down this path again? No. But we have a plan.”
An action plan doesn’t work effectively if it isn’t implemented correctly. Once you decide how you want your practice and facilities to respond in the event of a future outbreak, communicate those expectations clearly to every staff member, and answer any questions that arise. Then make the new protocols easily accessible for review at a moment’s notice via your internal communications system. Finally, host regular check-in meetings virtually with your entire team to make sure that all components of your plan are still appropriate and that your staff feels confident in implementing them. Everyone must be on the same page.
Now more than ever, you are a partner with your facilities. When you step up to offer them the support they need, especially when that support exceeds what you typically provide, you strengthen those relationships and showcase your dedication to exceptional patient care.
The Thrive Behavioral Science team is an excellent example of a facility partner. When the coronavirus hit the United States, they gave their facilities that lacked vital resources the PPE and sterilization sprays they needed to operate safely. They also shipped tablets to their telehealth-enabled facilities and continued to provide exceptional psychological and psychiatric care in the facilities that deemed them essential. They even implemented drug utilization review programs to help their facilities stay within compliance of their regulatory requirements. All these efforts are apparent in the relationships they maintain with facility teams today.
Rather than waiting for the next emergency to arrive, take the time now to make your communications with your facilities as streamlined as possible. Utilize EHR integrations available to you to minimize the amount of paper that needs to travel through facilities. Prioritize technology that enables you to sign and send patient notes digitally. Adopt platforms that make real-time communications between providers and facility staff easy and effective. And do so while you and your team have the bandwidth to navigate the onboarding and training processes. Proactive movement today ensures much smoother sailing months from now.
Dr. Newlands highlighted how facilities nationwide have and will continue to experience decreases in patient admissions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, negatively impacting them from a business standpoint. For instance, many buildings cannot accept new patients due to existing outbreaks and their efforts to contain them effectively. For this reason, he suggests that all facility directors be mindful of their cash flow.
“Definitely keep cash on hand at least until the end of the year so you can see what additional storms you have to weather,” he said. Regardless of how you go about it, you won’t regret preparing for the additional financial strain on your business.
As human beings, we naturally acclimate to the changes presented to us. We incorporate them into our lives as the “new normal” and eventually cease to think of them as novel threats that require focused attention.
This kind of complacency can be a catalyst for a new COVID-19 outbreak. It makes it all too easy to break rules, make errors, and let little things slide. So, no matter how normalized the coronavirus becomes, it is your responsibility to remain alert to the lingering threat and keep focused on protecting at-risk patients from that threat.
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