Home health and home care have always been decentralized workplaces. They take place, after all, in the home.
But in the age of COVID-19, even home-based care administrative offices are going remote. Maintaining staff safety in these times is both crucial and challenging. And it’s increasingly on the minds of operators.
“From all three countries that we serve, there is now the need to have staff [COVID-19] screeners and patient screeners,” says Deb Mulholland, VP of Care Delivery Performance at CellTrak Technologies. “We provide these screeners to support safe care delivery.”
From HIPAA-compliant secure messaging to GPS mapping capabilities for emergency situations and staffing requirements, a variety of technology tools were already in place for operators in the care provider world. Those tools become even more vital during an emergency situation, namely COVID-19.
“In a pandemic, you need to be very prudent about the kinds of documentation you require staff to engage in,” says Cheryl Reid-Haughian, CellTrak’s VP of Clinical Informatics.
Documentation can be streamlined and modified, while agencies can use technology to track the many virtual visits that will be replacing face-to-face. Here is a look at how CellTrak tools support three key areas during an emergency: operational management, clinical management and safety of residents and staff.
Operational challenges are and will continue to be vast during COVID-19, as the virus increases both staff turnover and patient need. That means that staff and management need to have fast, secure messaging capabilities.
“During this pandemic, there are constant staffing changes either being driven at the patient- or the staff-level,” Mulholland says. Operators must have a tool to facilitate real-time, last-minute schedule changes — including mapping technology that allows them to know where staff are in real time, and to see which staff members are nearest to a case that has had a book-off.
There are patient-driven staffing components at play, too. If a patient tests positive for COVID-19, an agency must be able to track who has been with that person. Even if a patient is just showing symptoms, knowing the change in that patient’s condition will drive staffing decisions. But there are also patients who are cancelling home health appointments out of fear that the person entering their home will be asymptomatic and could transmit the virus.
At a foundational level, CellTrak technology helps agencies diversify their service delivery model, and gives them the tools to track those care visits, which will be increasingly virtual during the pandemic.
“This is a constant, fluid, changing environment,” Mulholland says.
As the pandemic progresses and the danger of face-to-face visits increases, home health providers are adding virtual visits to their service delivery models. They will need communication tools that document patient changes and avenues to alert the staff in real time.
“Our solution makes it relatively easy to think about new ways of delivering care,” Reid-Haughian says. “The virtual visit [becomes] accessible for not only operations but the clinical staff at the frontline.”
Adds Mulholland: “I think the timeliness heightens at this time.”
Federal, state and local governments have changed and will continue to change requirements for home visits, while health needs will evolve and symptoms will change. Access to information around changing care plans, staffing schedules and home visit detail does improve communication, collaboration and coordination of care across a care team — and across agencies — and is vital to the clinical success for the patient.
As health mandates change in various jurisdictions, agencies need to get updated information to care providers on a regional basis. Real-time supervision for coaching, mentoring is also critical to staff feeling they are supported in these difficult and rapidly changing times.
“It’s the rapidity of the change,” Reid-Haughian says.
Patient and staff safety
All of these new processes will have a vast, tangible impact on patient and staff safety, and can be accessed and viewed through CellTrak’s comprehensive point-of-care solution.
“The mobile application brings a new, heightened level of safety for both patients and staff,” says Reid-Haughian.
Simple electronic reminders around handwashing or COVID-19 screening “might seem rather trite,” she says, but they are the keys to the success of both virtual visits and safe home visits.
“All of those things (streamlined documentation, secure messaging, alerts, portals and screening tools) bring an elevated element of safety to the staff, and ultimately to the patient, because those tools are really protecting both sides: the patient and the staff,” Reid-Haughian says.
“In this pandemic, there is the element of fear and anxiety for both patients and staff,” she says. “The more you can create structure and process and enable those with real-time technology, the faster you can mitigate some of that anxiety and fear for both of those parties.”
To learn more about how CellTrak can help you navigate COVID-19, visit CellTrak.com.