Let me say right up front how very proud we at HFAM and AHCA/NCAL are of you and your teams. You have successfully pushed back every wave, surge, and spike of COVID over these last two years and have saved many lives. During this most recent Omicron surge, which was highly contagious, you fought back the virus while short staffed and with a lack of financial resources compared to earlier surges. While this last surge was massive, thanks to high vaccination rates in Maryland – particularly in our sector – the surge did not overburden our ICU capacity nor result in a large number of fatalities.
Given recent data coming out of Europe, many are expecting a quick up and down spike of the new Omicron BA.2 variant here in about two or three weeks. It is highly unlikely that the federal or state governments will revert to general mask mandates or other broad general public orders in response to the coming spike; although, many believe the federal government will likely extend the transportation mask mandate beyond April 18.
I do believe that the spike will put more pressure on healthcare and our sector. As we shared on March 8, “Federal and State healthcare leaders are warning of a severe fall flu season and future COVID surges. In our work with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), we believe that the Department will make regular the spot antibody testing that has been conducted in our setting.” With this likely spike of Omicron BA.2, we can expect a state and federal push for more antibody testing, as well as second and third booster dose deployment to residents, patients, and staff.
Even if we enter into a more endemic phase of COVID-19, spikes, surges, antibody testing, boosters, challenge, and opportunity are likely the new normal. Healthcare providers who continue to focus on quality care and innovate in workforce development will have a distinct advantage. Of course, accomplishing this with the current workforce, inflation, and reimbursement challenges add tremendously to the degree of difficulty. Please know that the #1 priority of HFAM and AHCA/NCAL is to advocate for adequate rates for quality care and against cuts that put at risk the ability to field teams needed to provide quality care. In regard to care delivery, we are an indisputable time of reform. We will continue to be a voice for care delivery reform built on the core values of our sector with true shared risk and reward based on clinical outcomes and genuine partnership. In times like these, there is power in numbers and association.
Government Relations and Sector-Led Initiatives:
Last week, HFAM participated in very productive AHCA/NCAL calls with federal leaders, including staff from House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office. And, we are at a pivotal time in Annapolis on issues of policy and the coming fiscal year’s budget. We are in regular contact with key legislative leaders and Governor Hogan’s office. We are blessed by our ongoing relationships, the quality care provided by our members, and the factual story told by the data. Our Annapolis conversations are going well.
In partnership with AHCA/NCAL and independently, HFAM is working on workforce solutions. We are also working on sector-led initiatives, including the following highly recommended programs:
Revenue Cycle Management Academy training. AHCA offers a five-module online training program titled Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Academy which offers training about a holistic interdisciplinary approach toward revenue management. RCM can be implemented in a building, more broadly or as an organization-wide approach to enhance revenue by minimizing losses from payments that too often are unnecessarily lost or overlooked. Individuals will need to login to ahcancalED with their AHCA/NCAL usernames and passwords to register for Revenue Cycle Management Academy. For assistance obtaining usernames and passwords, members should e-mail email@example.com with their name and facility contact information.
Infection Preventionist Specialized Training. AHCA/NCAL’s popular Infection Preventionist Specialized Training (IPCO Version 2) is recommended for individuals responsible for infection prevention and control in all long term care settings. One-hundred percent of the individuals who completed the IPCO course in 2021 reported that they intended to apply their new knowledge and make changes at their facilities, and 98 percent also said they believed they were better equipped to implement policies and procedures to mitigate infections. A full 99 percent say they would recommend the training to others. AHCA has long recommended that each skilled nursing facility train at least two Infection Preventionists through AHCA’s IPCO training program should one Infection Preventionist leave the facility or be unavailable. On a May 13, 2020 nationwide conference call for nursing homes, CMS also recommended that skilled nursing facilities have two Infection Preventionists for the same reasons. Members will need to login with their AHCA/NCAL usernames and passwords to register for IPCO Version 2. For assistance obtaining usernames and passwords, members should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with their name and facility contact information.
As we face the possible Omicron BA.2 spike and prepare for a fall flu season, as always:
- Focus on what is in your control and not what is out of your control.
- Let’s get those boosters and the flu vaccine in the arms of people.
- Overcommunicate – with residents, patients, families, staff, and government partners.
- Adapt and innovate.
- Rely on your partnerships.
- Speak up when you need help.
- Double efforts on infectious disease protocols, training, and operations.
- Take and document your action; keep a timeline.