New protocol for in-home health care providers amid spread of COVID-19

Posted at 8:08 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 09:08:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Health care providers who have to work in patients' homes are taking a closer look at their procedures amid the spread of COVID-19.

Visiting Nurse Association has a number of home and hospice care providers for 17 counties on both side of the state line, serving 525 patients.

"We cover anything from a medically complexed patient for nursing care as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy," VNA CEO Brad Evans said. "And that runs the gambit of folks who are recovering from orthopedic surgery, post stroke, cardiac patients, respiratory patients."

The group has an internal task force, and last week, they implemented four changes, which included travel screening all of its staff and patients.

"Wave included that travel screening for new patients before we make that first in home visit," Evans said. "So is that somebody that we need to be concerned about and be looking for other signs and symptoms."

There are also other changes for healthcare providers, who may be a first identifier of a patient who has symptoms.

"We have one of our hospital partners that asked us to admit one of those patients to our service so we want to make sure our staff are prepared to be able to take care of that positive COVID-19 case," Evans said.

The third change is knowing what providers need to do if they come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

"So if we have a staff member who identified as a patient that could and should be tested for COVD-19, what should they do if they come across that situation," Evans said. "The fourth thing we’ve done is update our business continuity plan. So as a home health agency in the healthcare market, you can’t close down your business so we need to make sure that we have our processes in place to make sure there’s no disruptions to our services."

Evans stated one of the concerns across the country is making sure there’s enough hospital beds for these patients

"So we’re preparing for worst case scenario," Evans said. "Will we be asked to care for these patients in their homes when they’re exhibiting just mild symptoms to avoid putting in that hospital setting if at all possible to save those beds for severe cases."

One of the challenges they were also seeing is the medical supply issue, getting enough masks to provide for those that need them.

"We sent several people out in the rural markets to see if we could go to other stores or other locations that you wouldn’t necessarily think about having equipment. Bill's Auto Paint Supply in Olathe, we were able to buy masks from them. Trails West Ace Hardware in Gardner, Kansas, and NERD's Hardware store in Odessa, Missouri."

Evans said because of those markets, they were able to go from 24 masks to 400 in a week.