For decades, SNFs lagged behind other healthcare providers in terms of aging infrastructure, poor design, outdated or insufficient technology, training and process improvements. Innovation was sorely needed—and COVID-19 provided the wake-up call. Moving forward, facilities must operate differently, and even be physically restructured to accommodate new ways of serving residents. Whether it’s building walls, adding rooms, enhancing air filtration, integrating technology into clinical and financial operations or other initiatives, your facility must adapt to changing times and evolving market conditions—and that should begin today.
Here are four operational strategies to move your facility in the right direction:
1. Plan infrastructure around new norms of social distancing.
Sound protocols for infection prevention and control are predicated on having sufficient physical space within your facility to allow social distancing. Unfortunately, many facilities remain outdated with shared rooms and common areas throughout. While adapting infrastructure for this in our new world is necessary, it’s also important to balance distancing (and in some cases, isolation) in ways that maintain social and family connections. Technology can play a part in this; but it’s wise to consult with experts in related areas (e.g., design, construction, psychology, clinical operations) to leverage best practices.
2. Consider facility planning within the context of QAPI.
Much of what you can accomplish in terms of infrastructure and process improvement can be done within your existing QAPI program. QAPI is the coordinated application of two mutually-reinforcing aspects of a quality management system: Quality Assurance (QA) and Performance
Improvement (PI). It takes a systematic, comprehensive and data-driven approach to maintaining and improving safety and quality in nursing homes and home care agencies while involving all caregivers in practical and creative problem solving.
QAPI allows you to identify, address and resolve issues through the smart and tactical use of data. You’ll gain a clear understanding of where your facility may fall short, and you’ll be fully equipped to establish a plan (specifically, a performance improvement plan, or PIP) that better positions your facility moving forward. It can also guide your organization toward improving quality measures and positively impacting your Five-Star rating.
3. Utilize an EHR and additional technology if you don’t already do so.
EHRs play a key role in driving efficiency, productivity and profitability. They also aid in infection prevention and control efforts by eliminating the need for physical papers and notebooks that potentially could be laden with germs and can’t be properly disinfected.
Far too many SNFs haven’t yet implemented and customized an EHR solution for their clinical and financial operations. If yours hasn’t yet, it should.
In addition, as long as certain guidelines are met, facilities are permitted to utilize CARES Act funding for information technology expenses that allow residents to connect with their families if they are not able to visit.
4. Create a comprehensive disaster plan—and revisit it annually.
To do so:
Make sure it includes outbreak plans and policies
Establish emergency PPE par levels
Make sure valid contracts are in place for emergency/backup PPE distributors
Make sure your facility’s administrators and staff leaders are aware of the plan and regularly trained on it