How Skilled Nursing Should Prepare for the Post-Pandemic Future
April 07, 2021
While organizations across the healthcare continuum are still engaged with the crisis-driven demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tempting to ignore the reality that we will eventually be past this time of emergency. Provider leadership should prepare themselves, however, for a new healthcare reality. Some of the problems encountered during the past year have underscored the need to address long-standing dysfunction within our healthcare system. Skilled nursing is one sector of healthcare that has been hit the hardest by COVID-19, and it is likely that changes are coming to these providers. Based on the webinar, New Challenges, Proven Solutions: How Skilled Nursing and Long-Term Care Prepare for What Comes Next, presented by Ellen Kuebrich, Senior Director of Quality Solutions at HealthStream, here are some ways that skilled nursing providers can improve their standing and prospects in a post-COVID-19 future.
- Embrace the Switch to Value-Based Payment Structures
COVID-19 has emphasized the frailty of our healthcare payment system, where providers bill for every service provided. Not only does this leave both the medical provider and the patient absolved from any fiscal accountability, but it arguably encourages overutilization by both parties and leads to an increase in overall healthcare costs over time. In addition, it doesn't lend itself to encouraging whole-person healthcare. Skilled nursing should prepare for a value-based payment structure that encourages providers to consider preventive health when they're addressing patient needs. Skilled nursing must prove to hospitals they are effective partners in the drive to reduce unnecessary readmissions. Demonstrating a commitment to quality and a willingness to improve care processes in pursuit of shared outcome goals can go a long way to creating care partnerships.
- Prepare for Increased Government Oversight
The Biden Administration will be more inclined to invest in social programs, which will be positive in financial terms. The other side of that will be the likelihood of increased oversight and regulation, with more of a push towards value-based performance, so that providers get rewarded for delivering great care. Routine inspections and full annual surveys are in the process of resuming. An area that will get attention is the emergency preparedness plan, which is going to lead CMS to look at the resources allocated for the population admitted and whether a facility assessment is up to date. For gaps in performance, they'll look at the QAPI program to determine if a provider is aware of issues and working on them. Skilled nursing processes must be ready for increased scrutiny.
- Anticipate Lasting Industry Changes
It is likely there will be an exodus of employees from the industry, whether those near to retirement or younger employees overwhelmed by the trauma. Prepare for those with 30 to 40 years of nursing experience under their belt to depart—they may be the coaches in your facility that really understand quality management, and they may be leaving. Skilled nursing is already plagued by staff shortages; 29% of nursing homes now have a shortage of direct care workers. Organizations need to think of ways to recruit, onboard, and train effectively in a way that takes infection prevention and control into account. There will be a growing need for remote learning and remote competency training. Taking advantage of telehealth and its improved reimbursement by CMS is a big change. Telehealth can elevate the ability to get back to the bedside so that physicians can see more residents safely and more frequently.
- Be Ready to Take Advantage of Life After COVID-19
Now is the time for skilled nursing to determine what areas of its operations to outsource or reallocate across multiple disciplines in the facility so that turnover doesn’t halt progress. Providers need to take a hard look at what they need to change and simplify in their businesses. Most importantly, identify strategies to improve care quality and achieve needed quality metrics that will ensure your organization is among those that will survive the pandemic.
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