Ah, September…the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler (in the North, at least) and the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has opened their portal for the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program! Whether you are new to the program and applying for a Bronze award, continuing your quality journey at the Silver level, or are going for the Gold, the award program recognizes your hard work.
COVID-19’s Continued Impact in 2020
In any other year, the decision whether or not to apply for an award might not seem very difficult; if my nursing home is doing a great job, why not brag about it? Unfortunately, 2020 brought us the COVID-19 pandemic and a tragic number of illnesses and deaths in nursing homes nationwide. Nursing home operators can’t be blamed for feeling uncomfortable applying for an award, particularly if COVID-19 has affected their residents, staff, and families. While this is a valid concern, it’s important to remember how long-term and post-acute care providers have responded and adapted to the pandemic, and in many cases have succeeded against incredible odds.
An important point to remember is that rates of COVID-19 infection in nursing homes and other health care facilities are driven by the spread of the virus in the community. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation in July found that long-term care facilities in COVID-19 hotspot states had an increase in infections over four times that of facilities in states with lower infection rates. The study notes that while shortages in both staff and personal protective equipment (PPE) are found in a large number of nursing homes, those shortages exist in both hotspot and non-hotspot states. One take-away from this analysis is that nursing home COVID-19 rates are not necessarily due to poor care, but instead the easily transmissible nature of the virus itself.
AHCA/NCAL Quality Awards Program
So, what does this have to do with the AHCA Quality Awards? Think about all the ways your organization has had to adapt to the pandemic: your admission and transfer processes, your approach to physician visits and therapy treatments, accommodations for dining and activities, and setting up isolation and cohorting rooms. How did you do this?
- Who was involved in carrying out the changes, and how are you evaluating whether they were effective?
- Was education on infection control and PPE usage provided throughout the facility – including non direct care staff?
- What about planning ahead for the future – could you do it all over again if you had to?
The Quality Awards application process is an excellent method for taking stock of your organization and identifying the systems and processes you use to provide quality health care services. Just about every aspect of the criteria touches on facility processes affected by the pandemic. From strategic planning and implementation, to designing work processes and measuring performance, to workforce engagement, emergency planning, customer engagement, and social responsibility – the areas where you and your team of Health Care Heroes have risen to the challenge should be recognized! Consider submitting your Intent to Apply by November 12th, and start the process of sharing your good work.