Healthcare System Analysis Reveals Vulnerability in the Fight against COVID-19

Advisory Board Company warns that staffing at post-acute facilities, especially Skilled Nursing Facilities (aka Nursing Homes), leads to higher infection rates 

In a recent article based on in-depth research and analysis, the Advisory Board has issued specific strategies to address the threat of high infection rates of COVID-19 in post-acute care facilities.

The first recorded wave of deaths due to coronavirus in the United States are associated with a Washington State skilled nursing facility (aka ‘SNF’ or ‘nursing home’). As of Monday, March 16, 19 residents have died; 30 of the 43 remaining residents and 46 of the home’s 180 employees have tested positive.

High staff turnover rates coupled with a high percentage of non-certificated staff lead to increases in infection rates, according to the Advisory Board. These staffing challenges are rooted in a problematic reimbursement model, often related to Medicaid funding, which makes “it more difficult for SNFs [Skilled Nursing Facilities] to increase their staffing levels.”

But COVID-19 means that SNFs—and their hospital partners—can’t wait for the reimbursement environment to improve before making changes. To avoid catastrophe, SNFs must recommit to infection prevention, and hospitals, physicians and health plans need to help.

“Nursing homes: The front line in the fight against COVID-19,” Jared Landis,

Despite a short-term financial hit, SNFs are advised to increase staffing levels and overall staffing mix to reduce the risk of infection and staff burnout.

Hospitals are also called upon to reach out to nearby nursing homes and offer infection prevention training and guidelines, as well as telehealth services that provide as-needed advanced clinical support. With limited RN capacity at the homes serving our most vulnerable seniors, a little support can go a long way.

For more information on ways to reduce the risk of outbreak and infection in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, consider the Infectious Disease Advisor‘s detailed articles.