My goal with this article is to serve as a primer of sorts for that assessment process and to hopefully make it a little easier to return to “business as usual.”
Long-term care providers, for the past two plus months, have been working tirelessly to take care of a large percentage of our nation’s elderly and infirmed population. The same population that is most susceptible to serious complications or death due to COVID-19. As it is starting to look like the COVID infections may be plateauing (I knock on every piece of wood I can find when I make that statement), many providers are now assessing all the challenges and issues they have handled over these recent months and starting to think about getting back to some form of “normal.” My goal with this article is to serve as a primer of sorts for that assessment process and to hopefully make it a little easier to return to “business as usual.”
With the various additional resources that providers have received from the state and federal levels, it will be important to keep track of what was received and for what purpose. In addition, each source of funding (whether it be a loan, grant, advance on future payments, etc.) has different rules in terms of which costs can be covered by those sources. It will also be very important to keep appropriate detailed records of those related costs. Health care providers are all too familiar with the audit processes followed by the various Medicaid and Medicare auditors. I would expect auditors will be verifying how funds received during the COVID-19 pandemic were spent as well.
Out of all the challenges that have arisen over the past few months for long-term care providers, there have been a couple bright spots. One of them has been a continued low interest rate environment. For providers who have debt maturing in the near future and/or may have locked in interest rates at a higher level, now is a great time to contact your lender and discuss if there may be potential savings available through a refinancing.
Senior living and nursing facilities have received a great deal of media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of it has been positive (e.g. focusing on the heroism of the clinical care providers) and some of it has been negative (e.g. allegations of COVID-19 infection information being withheld from residents and their families). As the situation starts to settle, now is a great time for each provider to reach out to their surrounding community and take credit for all the good things they have done during the pandemic. Focus on the number of residents kept safe, the COVID-19 infected patients who recovered, and the tireless work of the nurses and other care givers.
In addition, now may be a good time to further strengthen your relationships with the local hospitals. This was an extremely stressful time for their organizations as well and it is possible that some of their preferred long-term care providers did not perform to expectations. This could create the potential for a new Medicare referral source or increased referrals from an existing source.
This is a great time for senior living and long-term care providers to look back and assess how their internal processes worked during the tremendous stress that COVID-19 placed on the system. Now is the time to check in with employees on how well the processes worked when the experience is fresh in their mind. Were the established policies practical? Did they address the real needs that arose during the pandemic? Are there areas for improvement? Larger organizations may want to consider dedicating some audit resources for a period of time to fully assess what worked well and where opportunities for improvement may lie.
Finally, don’t believe for a moment that the hackers, phishers, and other cyber security threats out in the world sympathize that your company or organization has been under tremendous stress during the pandemic. In fact, they may view now as the opportune time to slip a virus or malware past a distracted email user. It continues to be important to remind employees about not clicking on suspicious emails, being mindful of files they download, etc. This will help minimize the risk that a senior living or long-term care provider has to deal with an information technology data loss issue on top of its other current challenges.
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