COVID-19 update for home care

Home health providers scramble to stay on top of evolving health care crisis under National Emergency

If your home health agency hasn’t yet activated its Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), it's time to do so immediately. That’s the advice from Home Health Solutions Owner J’non Griffin, an industry expert on the implementation of emergency plans at home health agencies. J’non spent much of 2018 helping agencies around the country develop new emergency preparedness plans which Medicare required them to implement that year. Her company is a nationwide consulting and outsourcing firm for home health, hospice and long-term care. “Now that the President has declared the COVID-19 pandemic a National Emergency, home health agencies across the U.S. need to activate their CEMPs immediately,” J’non said Friday afternoon, following the press conference in which President Trump made the official declaration. The National Emergency declaration was followed by a weekend flurry of nationwide school and business closings, event cancellations, and a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that Americans plan on eight weeks of shutdowns and social distancing in order to mitigate the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Staffing, PPE issues Home health agencies, like other businesses nationwide, are scrambling to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 health care crisis. Among the first problems agencies are seeing are staff members who are unable to report to work until childcare arrangements can be made for children home due to school closings. “Agencies are looking at personnel shortages due to workers who do not have child care available during school closings,” J’non said. “They’re also looking ahead to the likelihood that staff members will test positive for the coronavirus and have to be off work for an extended period of time.” Agencies are also dealing with shortages of basic supplies such as hand sanitizer, masks and personal protective equipment. A depleted supply of hand sanitizer has prompted the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to suspend regulations governing the compounding of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products, allowing licensed pharmacists more compounding leeway. Details here. “Agencies need to be prepared to handle an influx of patients with possible PPE shortages,” J’non said. Cash flow

Cash flow is a particular concern for home care providers already feeling some financial pains from the Jan. 1 implementation of Medicare’s new Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) with reduced payments up front for the cost of home care episodes. “As the health care crisis continues, it’s going to be vitally important for agencies to have in place a plan for maintaining operations and cash flow,” J’non said. It's also important for agencies to screen their patients, make certain they get the right information to both patients and staff members. “Information from the CVD is changing almost daily at this point, so it’s very important for home care providers to stay on top of this,” J’non said. No drills Activating emergency plans at home health agencies will eliminate the need for staging a community-wide emergency drill this year to meet testing requirements required by Medicare’s Conditions of Participation, J’non said. But agencies will still need to fulfill the evaluation requirement. “Document your response to the COVID-19 emergency for later evaluation, and identify any problem areas where improvement is needed,” J’non said.

HCAF briefing set for March 19 The Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF) will sponsor a 30-minute webinar briefing on the coronavirus on March 19, featuring helpful information specifically for home care providers. Membership in HCAF is not required for attendance. (Register here.) Need help right now? If you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed by all the demands on your agency right now, Home Health Solutions can help. Whether you need help with ADRs and RAC audits, survey preparation or coding services, our staff is friendly, knowledgeable and eager to help you. Contact us!