Despite the massive rollout of anti-COVID vaccines, infection rates remain erratic, with the trend in infected cases as of September resembling the uptick experienced countrywide in October last year. What the healthcare system thought would be a relief from a prolonged bottleneck period turned out to present to them more uncertainty as to when this health crisis is truly going to end. And so, they are left with no option but to weather through this battlefield, despite the apparent exhaustion from almost two years of fighting the invisible enemy.
A study by BMC Health Services Research in 2020 purports similar challenges experienced by personnel deployed for home care as in a hospital setting. Notably, the availability of supplies was challenged. Also, there was a perceived strain in manpower due to staff getting sick one after another. As a result, the continuity and quality of care cannot be guaranteed.
These unusual settings unlocked areas for improvement in patient engagement. Moreover, it urged intensified coordination between members of the healthcare team from the managerial level to those in direct contact with the patient.
How the needs of those chronically ill and the elderly were set aside by the alarming coronavirus contagion is undeniable. It is worth looking into how the transformed protocols in the healthcare setting to promote more safety are affecting the patients who are pushed to seek long-term medical care in their homes. Here are the most notable changes that shape home care in the new normal:
Leveraging Communication Technology
For so long, healthcare practitioners settled for in-person interaction with their patients. It is invaluable how such a personal connection benefited the patient’s ability to cope with the condition they are enduring. But, in the name of protecting those more vulnerable to infections, medical professionals sought the aid of virtual conferencing solutions to get in touch with their patients.
Virtual consultations and check-ins are increasingly becoming the norm and are given as options for patients, especially immunocompromised ones, who need to lessen their outdoor activity during this pandemic. And so, healthcare agencies have invested in devices like tablets and online consultation software for their staff to seamlessly document the medical interventions they plan to implement and have already implemented.
More sophisticated technology allows them to monitor their patients’ vital signs remotely, with the help of diagnostic devices that shoots data into a database that is accessible through a medical portal, while providing real-time updates to the patient as well as his family who might be away. Still, all these technologically-assisted health care works best when the patient has a stay-in caregiver that performs nursing duties.
In the advent of the pandemic, providers of continuing professional education specifically for healthcare workers have had to shift to video training that staff can simply watch through their computers or smartphones. After which, these staff members are scheduled to either take an online test or an in-person return demonstration (observing the maximum number of allowed participants in a room) with which they can earn additional CPE units.
Factors like burnout from COVID-19 pushed many healthcare workers to quit their jobs resulting in an increased turnover rate in the industry and, as a result, pushes for more flexible means of training new hires. New hires can, likewise, undergo an online care course and obtain a certificate of completion before they can be deployed.
Precautions by Home Health Clinicians
Gone are the days when a home care staff can don scrubs and be all set to go on duty in his patient’s house. Now, they have to religiously wear a surgical mask whenever they are near the patient and, in the event when they are at risk of exposure to the patient’s bodily fluids and excretions, they have to also don sterile gloves. On the other hand, the staff has to wear and an isolation gown, a pair of gloves, and an N95 mask if the patient is confirmed COVID-positive.
More than ever, home healthcare personnel have to wash their hands as often as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO). Also, they have to disinfect the commonly touched surfaces in the patient’s home.
Since last year, there has been a heightened concern for the health of our elderly loved ones. It is no wonder that home care services, which are a much safer option for them, are becoming more in demand. This is a major driver of change in the dynamics of healthcare teams. The things mentioned are burdening, but, otherwise, a necessary transformation that most home care agencies have to bear.