COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, has been sweeping the globe and prompting governments to initiate emergency measures in an effort to limit the spread of the disease. Older and immunocompromised populations are most at risk for extreme illness. The threat of contagion for much of the population is strong, due to incubation periods as long as 2 weeks and the fact that scientists are unsure how long the virus lives on surfaces. Accordingly, the population most at risk is concurrent with the home health care population. Those caring for home health and hospice patients can transmit the disease even if our patients are staying in the home. In support of the home health industry, QIRT experts have created a COVID-19 preparedness addendum for home health agencies.
As with established Emergency Preparedness Plans and Infectious Disease Control Standards, agencies must ensure they have a plan in place. All staff, including administrators, clinicians, and aides, must be provided with and educated on the most up-to-date information on treatment and preventative measures.
Home health agency administrators are responsible for the overall review of the agency’s Emergency Preparedness Plan, Communication Plan, and Continuity of Operations Plan. As necessary, administrators must update these plans, including the Infection Control Plan.
Once an agency’s plans are updated for COVID-19’s specifics, information management must be controlled for ongoing updates. As such, it is imperative that the Director of Patient Services (DPS) or another designee review CDC and local government websites daily for any updates of disease activity and mitigation efforts. All staff who require access to the Health Commerce System have up-to-date usernames, passwords, and remote access ability. Administrators or DPS must coordinate with local emergency operations and health departments by providing agency and patient status.
There are multiple resources that home health agencies can draw upon to support their staff and patients. The National Association for Homecare and Hospice (NAHC) and most regional/state associations are working diligently to support agencies with up-to-date information. Additionally, CMS has released COVID-19 guidelines available for review here:
QIRT experts have created a COVID-19 Preparedness guideline/addendum for your reference. Feel free to contact us for more information.
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