As the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely available, there has been a “nearly 99 percent decline in new COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents.” Seniors and healthcare workers were among the first groups to get vaccinated, and because of this, the clinical crisis is now largely under control. With the imminent health threat getting more manageable for nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and post-acute care centers, providers have now been able to focus more on the other ramifications of the pandemic. Care facilities are at an all-time low for occupancy. Long-term care facilities have been implementing a few new proactive strategies to increase occupancy, success and help more seniors.
“Long term care facilities remain essential care settings for aging Americans.” With many Americans working from home or unable to work, seniors had more caregiver options through the pandemic. As life returns closer normal, seniors will need to utilize long-term care facilities. As more seniors transition to care facilities, there are many things long-term or post-acute care facilities can do to stand out and successfully welcome the new seniors and return to their standard resident capacity.
Utilizing technology is one of the keys to well-coordinated care, improved patient outcomes, and reduced costs. To remain competitive and fill occupancy, long-term care and post-acute facilities need to ensure they use value-based care models. Technology is the primary way to measure and maintain this success. In addition, as long-term care and post-acute facilities use technology to manage patient care better, they “can become a stronger partner for their residents, referral sources, payers, and the communities they serve.”
Many technology tools can help providers with success in this post-pandemic performance system world. Some of the tools are:
The first recommended tool is the Minimum Data Set and Continuity Assessment Record and Evaluation Item Set (MDS and CARE), which work as an assessment tool to identify and address potential resident care problems. According to Priscilla Glidewell, Director of Clinical Services at MNS, “It is crucial for Skilled Nursing Facilities to understand just how important MDS reporting truly is and how it affects different facets in the reimbursement and quality of care continuum of the patient. Having competent nurses with proper training in the MDS role is vital in making sure the resident assessments are being completed accurately for optimizing reimbursement and providing quality patient-centered care.” Long Term care facilities pride themselves on having individualized and custom care plans and this tool helps manage those plans and make sure they are correct and efficient.
A program called PEPPER (Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report) shows skilled nursing facilities where they stand compared to other local skilled nursing facilities. This program allows facilities to “be proactive, take corrective action, and focus on areas of potential vulnerability.” In addition to PEPPER, facilities can also use the Five-Star Quality Rating that Medicare reports. Nursing or management staff can regularly perform internal audits for the quality measures system criteria to ensure that a high score will be received when the state health department representative surveys the facility.
In conclusion, COVID-19 has changed the long-term care and post-acute facility world. The wake of the pandemic leaves facilities with “an opportunity to evaluate their technology strategy with an eye toward maximizing existing resources, improving connectivity, and scaling for the future.” Though occupancy is at an all-time low, facilities can recover if they adapt and improve as occupancy increases.