Healthcare organizations, state agencies, and community-based organizations are working together in the fight against COVID-19 to distribute rapid tests, run vaccine clinics, and hand out masks, all while adapting their workflows and processes to account for the CDC’s constantly changing COVID-19 guidelines.
The most recent, announced in December 2021, recommends isolation or quarantine for five days as opposed to ten after testing positive for COVID-19 without symptoms – and then wearing a mask for five days more. For those who have been exposed, ten days of masking is encouraged. The responses to these changes are mixed, but these guidelines have, without a doubt, caused continued strain on those working in high-risk congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, residential living facilities, and prisons. New guidelines often require new workflows.
As key public agencies, healthcare organizations, and community-based organizations navigate the guidelines around COVID-19, here are four recommendations to maintain a steady, cost-effective workflow:
1. Solidify safety protocols.
We continue to see new guidance around public safety and COVID-19 protections, which are adapted state-by-state to meet ongoing community needs, and this is causing widespread confusion. Early in the pandemic, health experts recommended any form of masking, but now we know the importance of choosing N95 and KN95 masks over cloth masks – and using medical masks as alternatives. The challenge, due in part to the global shortage, is finding affordable and legitimate personal protective equipment to distribute to staff and members. Those in decision-making leadership roles need to assess risk and determine the most conservative path to ensuring safety while maintaining quality service. This may require ongoing changes. You can start by reviewing the CDC’s COVID-19 Toolkit, which provides printable fact sheets, informational videos, and basic resources for maintaining a safe and healthy environment.
2. Digitize care coordination, management, and delivery.
Technology has been driving changes in health and social care since long before the pandemic, but there is an increasing need for more digital capabilities. Not only is telehealth on the rise – and likely to continue post-pandemic – but online screenings, virtual intakes, digital referrals, and data sharing capabilities are becoming a necessity. While there are still digital gaps, which disproportionately affect rural communities and communities of color, the future of health and social care is focused on interoperable technology. When looking at digital platforms, you need to consider a) how this technology can improve your internal workflow, b) how well it integrates into your existing systems, and c) the long-term benefits for your staff, many of whom are working beyond capacity and with limited support. New platforms should ease the burdens on staff through intuitive and customizable features.
3. Reassess community needs on a routine basis.
What worked pre-pandemic might not be working now. COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work, and interact with others. With this dramatic change in lifestyle, needs are inevitably changing – and now is the time to reassess the way you are servicing your community. Chances are you have already made significant internal adjustments, but is this enough? Are you still meeting the needs of your target populations? What challenges are you anticipating? Going forward, leaders need to have more frequent discussions centered on the pressing, localized needs of their communities. Policies, regulations, and funding opportunities will continue to vary by state, putting leaders in the unique position of developing their own targeted strategies. One way to improve successful outcomes is to work collaboratively across sectors. The more relationships you build and the more data you collect, the better you can assess population needs and implement solutions to solve them.
4. Anticipate internal disturbances.
Infections have kept countless workers home, causing significant disruptions in the organizational workflow—and this may change as COVID-19 surges simmer, but staff burnout and resignations are on the rise and show no signs of stopping, especially in public, health, and social care sectors. In addition to creating staff retention efforts, leaders need to be flexible and prepare for the ongoing disruptions that come with the changing workforce. This could include more standardized processes, more automation, and other preventative strategies to implement when needed.
The future of health and social care is rapidly changing and in many cases for the better. More stakeholders are aligning on goals and initiatives to ensure that health equity is made a priority, but sustainable strategies are hard to implement. As state agencies, healthcare organizations, and community-based organizations prepare for the future of care, we hope that outcomes are assessed from a long-term perspective.
Healthify, powered by WellSky is working closely with states and healthcare and community stakeholders to close gaps in the care continuum. We are on a mission to address social drivers of health through predictive analytics, as well as our referral platform and accountable care networks. Request a demo here to learn more about our solutions and how we can support your organizational goals.