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To improve COVID-19 infection control, safety and preparedness, KU Medical Center will lead nursing home interactive network in Kansas

October 30, 2020

By Kay Hawes

Masked female caregiver attending to masked elderly man in wheelchair
Long-term care facilities account for 8% of all coronavirus cases but more than 40% of all COVID-19 deaths. KU Medical Center's Project ECHO will support training in the best practices to improve COVID-19 outcomes.

The University of Kansas Medical Center has been chosen as a training center in Kansas for a nationwide interactive virtual initiative that will share best practices to improve COVID-19 infection control, safety and preparedness in skilled-nursing facilities.

This effort will leverage the existing KU Medical Center Project ECHO program and staff to lead this 16-session program using an "all-teach, all-learn" approach that has proven successful in dealing with multiple health issues. A $360,000 grant to KU Medical Center's Project Echo supports the project in Kansas.

The new network is being created under an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality contract worth up to $237 million that is part of the nearly $5 billion Provider Relief Fund authorized earlier this year under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Helping front-line workers

"Nursing-home workers are front-line workers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Shawna Wright, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, principal investigator for the KU Medical Center site of the Nursing Home ECHO Project and associate director of the KU Medical Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth. "They have risen to the occasion, and they are under stress. Project ECHO is the ideal training and support approach to provide the most up-to-date information for preventing and treating COVID-19 in the nursing-home setting. Live COVID-19 safety training will be delivered directly to the nursing homes at times that are most convenient for them."

Nearly 70 institutions have registered to participate in Kansas, though the goal is to have at least 100 statewide. All skilled-nursing facilities are encouraged to participate in this free training, and Medicare- or Medicaid-certified facilities are eligible to receive a $6,000 incentive to participate. Nursing homes have until Nov. 9 to register, though the program begins delivery Nov. 4.

"The pandemic has wreaked havoc in skilled-nursing facilities across the nation," said Rebeka Jones, licensed nursing home administrator, Hutchinson Health and Rehab. "Our skilled nursing facility will continue its efforts to provide the highest quality care, and ECHO will assist us in assuring we are totally prepared to face this new challenge. We are incredibly excited to participate in this program."

Disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, have experienced a disproportionate share of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recently available data show long-term care facilities account for 8% of all coronavirus cases but more than 40% of all COVID-19 deaths.

In Kansas, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there have been 2,011 total cases of COVID-19 among nursing-home residents with 364 deaths, as of Oct. 18.
KU Medical Center's Project ECHO team has assembled three specialty teams to facilitate the ECHO (one for each group, or cohort of facilities participating). Each specialty team includes a geriatrician, an advanced-practice provider, a pharmacist and a behavioral health specialist - all with experience in skilled nursing and/or long-term care.

Backed by Kansas Health Care Association

"The Kansas Health Care Association (KHCA) is pleased to be a part of the recruiting effort for the EHCO program," said Linda MowBray, KHCA president and CEO. "This valuable method of mentoring, instructing and guiding long-term care to help improve their practices for infection control is well worth the 60- to 90-minute time commitment required to participate. KHCA is strongly encouraging Kansas long-term care facilities to sign up and be part of the solution."

For more information on the AHRQ ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network, see details online. Learn more about KU Medical Center Project ECHO's previous work, also online. Kansas nursing homes can register for the ECHO here.

Last modified: Oct 31, 2020