5 Ways Senior Living Teams Can Improve Their Infection Management System
A guest blog post from Eldermark technology partner Peerlytics
The flu, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID-19 continue to pose a viral threat to senior living residents and staff — experts are referring to this triple threat as the tripledemic. Add in changing federal and local regulations, increased operating expenses, decreased staffing resources… Could we call that chaos?
The cure to chaos like this is leveraging our operational knowledge, our clinical strengths, lean into evidence-based research and learn from one another.
"To fight the “tripledemic” it is imperative that we refocus our clinical strengths and operational tactics from retrospective infection tracking to real time tracking/trending of infections. This needs to be at the forefront of operators' minds and shifting the mindset about technology to assist with this is greatly important. Real time tracking allows for prompt responses, therefore reducing the risk of infection spread.” Says Matt Just, PharmD, Peerlytics Founder and VP of Product and Customer Success.
Tackling complicated issues like infection control doesn’t need to be challenging or chaotic. There are some simple strategies that any senior living organization can put into practice to help keep staff and residents safe and better handle the tripledemic:
5 strategies senior living teams can implement today to improve their infection management system
- Track team member illnesses
Whether it’s through software, a spreadsheet, or a piece of paper, your staff member call-ins should be logged. Symptoms of any illness, location of where they worked in the past 72 hours, and symptom onset should be documented at minimum. Additional considerations would be pending lab tests (influenza, COVID-19), time of call-in, department, and other pertinent information like community illness exposures. Tracking team member illnesses levels up infection surveillance to help identify trends, potential outbreaks, and any staff-to-resident illness correlations. Essentially, taking the time to stay ahead of any potential risks can preserve an already slim workforce.
- Active symptom surveillance
Again, software, spreadsheets, or a piece of paper can achieve this, but resident illness symptoms should be tracked with vigilance during a season of heightened viral illnesses. Utilizing the Eldermark WISDOM2ACT tool or Peerlytics Watch and Wait allows the clinical team to stay diligent about documenting early signs of illness such as cough, fever, or vomiting; all of which could be rapidly spreading viruses if not tracked and monitored.
Matt Just, PharmD, Peerlytics Founder and VP of Product and Customer Success suggests, “start with identifying a communications plan. How will your frontline staff relay illness information to the clinical team? Next, identify a tracking system; how will you track symptoms to begin to understand any signs of an outbreak? Lastly, what is your mitigation plan; how will you communicate and establish proper precautions to keep your team members and additional residents free from illness?” Having these plans established and taking a proactive vs. reactive approach could be lifesaving.
- Wash your hands
We hate to state the obvious, but you can’t argue with the facts. Hand washing saves lives – 20 seconds with warm water and soap; if soap and water are not available, then alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make note, alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill norovirus germs!
How do you know if your staff are A+ hand washers? Are you tracking compliance? Hand hygiene audits – using software, spreadsheet, or piece of paper can give you data points on potential gaps and risks of infection prevention. Everyone plays a role in infection prevention, and education and audits within all departments can be extremely beneficial.
- Standardize illness communication
Not all illnesses require treatment or medication, in fact, 40-70% of antibiotics in Senior Living are prescribed inappropriately which can lead to a host of adverse events and long-term side effects including antibiotic resistance & C-Diff. “Clinically we struggle with communicating consistently with providers and family members about illness symptoms,” Just said. One thing to consider is the use of evidence-based criteria called McGeer Criteria. Utilizing a software solution with this built-in allows the clinical team to use their clinical judgment backed by clinical evidence to communicate to all members of the care team to provide the resident with the most appropriate care. Paper versions of evidence-based surveillance criteria can be found online too.
Vaccinations are important to reduce the risk of spreading viruses and the severity of the infection if caught. Unfortunately, influenza vaccination rates in our long-term care settings remain something we can improve upon. As industry experts, we have an opportunity to educate families, community members, and team members without reinventing the wheel. The CDC website has some great educational resources available. It is never too early or too late to start distributing educational resources around your community!
In conclusion, following regulatory guidelines does not have to be complex and strain your systems. Providing evidence-based care will maintain compliance while providing your residents a safe place to live, and your team members a great place to work. A healthy work environment reduces illness-related call-ins and improves retention and recruitment opportunities. Infection prevention is everyone's responsibility but how will you know your gaps if you are not tracking or trending?
If making infection prevention is your intention in 2023; you can take advantage of Eldermark’s partnership with the infection control software experts at Peerlytics. Peerlytics Infection Management & ABX Stewardship solutions are more than lines of code. It is technology built with heart and designed with senior living operations in mind. Peerlytics has created software solutions with the goal of helping senior living communities provide care that goes beyond minimum compliance during this “tripledemic.”
Interested in discussing what your infection management options are at your community or senior living organization? Let the Eldermark team know and we can show you how the Peerlytics-Eldermark connection can help.