JHF Helps PA Rapidly Launch Statewide COVID-19 Long-Term Care Support Network

Leveraging over twenty years of experience providing education in long-term settings, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) has worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to rapidly launch the Educational Support and Clinical Coaching Program (ESCCP). The statewide network of over 1,200 personal care homes and assisted living residences is designed to help residents and facility staff stay safe during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The participating facilities provide care to over 65,000 Pennsylvanians, but many of them do not have access to the clinical staff that is more typical of nursing facilities. With a population highly vulnerable to serious illness and death due to COVID-19, Pennsylvania needed to mobilize quickly to provide added support and education.

In the first weeks of April, JHF launched the ESCCP, offering twice weekly educational webinars, an extensive and evolving web-based community platform (Tomorrow's HealthCare), daily calls with DHS leadership, and services to connect long-term care staff to clinical experts from across the Commonwealth. The webinars, facilitated and hosted by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, focus on preparedness, infection control best practices, proper use of personal protective equipment, advance care planning, and special care considerations e.g., for persons with dementia or behavioral health concerns.

In addition to timely education, the ESCCP also connects long-term care sites to health systems throughout the commonwealth. Participants have daily calls with DHS leaders, and health systems including Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, the Wright Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Geisinger, and the Allegheny Health Network.

The ESCCP has already provided critical information to sites and clinical partners, including that the elderly residents with COVID-19 often may not report typical symptoms, such as the standard threshold of a high fever or respiratory symptoms. Sites must pay closer attention to lower-temperature thresholds in their residents and still test residents without symptoms. In the event of a resident or staff member exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or testing positive for the virus, the ESCCP will provide support and guidance in coordination with local health systems and the State Department of Human Services. Health systems across Pennsylvania have also benefited by sharing best practices through the new learning network.

The ESCCP presents an important platform to advance learning and care in long-term settings, a key agenda of the JHF that will extend beyond the current crisis. Building on the lessons learned and addressing key gaps in funding will be critical in advancing care for seniors in Pennsylvania and across the nation. 

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