More than 230 nursing homes from across Indiana are signed up for a program to assist facilities in dealing with COVID-19 and its challenges. The Indiana Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network (NHCAN) Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) helps nursing homes improve COVID-19 preparedness, safety and infection control.
Indiana was among the first states to launch the program.
COVID-19 is a serious challenge for nursing homes. As of Fall 2020, nearly one-quarter of the known COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been nursing home residents and staff.
The 16-week ECHO program offers weekly calls for nursing home leaders to hear from subject matter experts and to discuss their own experiences with each other.
Each call includes a presentation of COVID-related best practices and guidance, implementation and quality improvement techniques and case-based discussions to identify successes and challenges experienced at the facility-level. Subject matter experts in geriatrics and infection control/infectious disease help lead the calls.
Some of the topics covered in these calls have included:
- Vaccines: Expected arrival, storage. How to share educational materials with staff, residents and families.
- Infection control: Use of personal protective equipment (PPE). How to cohort positive and negative COVID-19 residents in a facility.
- Staffing shortages: Practical tips and short-term solutions.
The goals of the ECHO program are to help nursing homes implement evidence-based best practices to prevent outbreaks, identify any infections early, provide safe and appropriate care for residents with mild cases, ensure staff have the knowledge to implement safety measures to protect residents and themselves and reduce social isolation for residents, families and staff.
Enrollment is open through December 18 with new cohorts established on a rolling basis. Each cohort consists of about 30 facilities. The program began in Indiana on November 10. Other states are now offering it as well.
Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI are leading the effort in Indiana with collaboration from Regenstrief Institute, Parkview Health, University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana. The ECHO projected is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Two of the cohorts created in November are based at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Two more started in November are hosted by Parkview Health. University of Indianapolis and University of Southern Indiana each lead cohorts launched in December.