RCare News & Blog
Finding the right balance for your long-term care facility’s staffing schedule is critical. Having too small of an overnight team can lead to slow call responses and delays between an alert and checking on a resident. Overstaffing, on the other hand, can be costly — and you may end up underutilizing your workers. Your facility has unique staffing needs based on your current facility size, available technology, and best practices. Utilize these tips help you more effectively assess your long-term care facility’s staffing schedule.
1. Pay Attention to Staffing Regulations
Long-term care facilities must provide adequate staff to meet the needs of your residents. Your specific staff requirements can depend on the number of residents you have and their specific levels of care. Tracking that information through a staffing app can make it easier to keep up with the specific regulations in your area. You can also gain new insights into how they apply to your residents and facility.
2. Track Staff Utilization
One of the most effective ways to reassess your long-term care facility’s staffing schedule needs is taking a look at your current staff utilization. Do your employees frequently feel overworked or stressed, especially during overnight shifts? Do you have employees standing around with little to do on a regular basis?
Track employee utilization and how they’re spending their time during their shifts. You can use a staffing app or ask employees and their supervisors to report:
- The tasks they take care of during their shifts
- How many employees were on that shift
- How they think those factors impact patient care
Pay particular attention to what tasks staff members take care of during their shifts. Are staff members constantly on the go, with nonessential tasks getting put off until later? Or are staff members able to easily take care of the tasks they need to get done over the course of their shifts? Equally importantly, are staff members looking for work to do during their shifts? Too little to do can lead to low employee engagement and make it just as difficult to keep good, solid employees on your shifts as having too much work to do. You do not want your employees to feel as though they aren’t accomplishing their goals or are unable to provide adequate patient care.
3. Note Response Times
You never want a resident in your long-term care facility waiting too long to receive care from your staff, whether that resident has a medical issue or needs assistance getting out of bed, going to the toilet, and getting dressed. Typically, nurses and other staff members will have rounds that they perform in the morning and evening, helping residents get ready for the day or get ready for bed.
It’s normal for there to be some delays during these busy times. But your residents should never have to wait too long for the attention they need. Track response times on a regular basis and set attainable goals. How long does it take between a resident indicating a need and a staff member responding? If you note your response times increasing, it could be time to increase the number of staff you have on hand.
4. Utilize a Staffing Agency When Needed
Sometimes, you may temporarily need more employees in your long-term care facility. A staffing agency can provide you with those short-term employees. They can come in on a limited basis and take care of whatever tasks need to be done. Working with a staffing agency on a regular basis can help you create a better relationship with the agency. This will also provide that agency with more information about exactly what type of employees you need.
5. Use Effective Caregiving Tools
Using the right caregiver tools can make a huge difference in your ability to track and report the care you’re providing to your patients. You can also use RCare Mobile to track ADLs, or Activities of Daily Living, including the time spent actually taking care of specific patients and their needs.
Over time, this can provide you with much better insight into how many staff members you need on a shift at any given time. RCare’s nurse call reporting, for example, allows administrators to track response times and clearly identify scheduling gaps. You can even get more insight into times when your facility is overstaffed.
RCare can offer the insights you need to help achieve better balance with your long-term care facility’s staffing schedule. You can leverage RCare reporting to identify where additional employees might be needed, and get a better look at how you are able to respond to and care for the residents in your facility.
Senior living communities serve the critical purpose of helping elder residents stay as independent as possible while getting the assistance they need for daily tasks. It’s a delicate balancing act. In the U.S., over 1.3 million people over the age of 65 live in one of these communities. The facility is their home, and staff members strive to provide the best possible quality of life for each resident. As in any industry, it’s important to collect feedback to ensure that we are not missing the mark. It sounds easy enough. In fact you may have residents who are very comfortable regularly providing input and advice. But that is not the case for everyone. Some residents may be resistant to providing opinions, or responses may be filtered and incomplete. Without this information, however, it can be difficult to get a complete picture of overall satisfaction from residents.
Obtaining elder resident feedback is a valuable tool for:
- Improving their quality of care
- Eliminating preventable medical emergencies
- Improving satisfaction within the facility
Formal surveys may be ineffective in these communities. Instead, try these tips to help routinely request feedback from elder residents.
Use Conversations as a Tool to Collect Elder Resident Feedback
When collecting feedback, you might immediately think about creating a survey. But all too often, a formal survey can lead to canned responses that provide limited insight. Instead, consider the usefulness of simple conversation. When a familiar staff member inquires about the quality of special foods, enjoyable activities during the day, and how a resident is feeling, valuable feedback can be gathered to determine if there is any room for improvement.
Many residents enjoy having amicable relationships with staff members and will open up when provided the opportunity. Instead of using questionnaires periodically, encouraging staff members to ask questions during their visits can provide valuable feedback about gaps in care or other areas of dissatisfaction. Adding a checklist to a daily or weekly paperwork can remind staff members to initiate these important conversations. When residents are given regular opportunities to share their feelings about their daily life, staff members are more likely to learn where minor changes could create major improvements.
Ask Targeted Questions
If someone asks you if you like living at your home, you’d probably say yes. But as much as you love your home, there would likely be some things you would want to change. Instead of simply asking residents if they enjoy living in the community, create a list of specific topics to bring up naturally in conversation. Factors that impact their quality of life can range from call response time to enjoying a favorite meal. Use these examples to initiate simple conversations that fit your residents and community:
- Daily Life: Have you interacted with your friends here today? What activities do you enjoy here? When was the last time you got to go outside?
- Health Care: How are you feeling today? Do you have any issues you’re concerned about? Do our nurses and other staff members respond quickly when you call?
- Diet: What did you have to eat today? Did you like it? What’s the best thing we serve here? What’s the worst thing we serve here? What do you wish we could add to the menu?
- General Satisfaction: What’s your favorite thing about our community? What do you like the least about staying here? Do you like your apartment? How could we improve it?
Create a Resident Council
There always residents who are more comfortable sharing their opinions than other. These advocates have deep relationships with others throughout the community and can be a great resource for more detailed feedback. Resident councils are becoming more and more frequent in eldercare communities. They are a great way to solicit feedback from influential members of the community and they help to get elders more directly involved in their care. These groups can be helpful for planning events, as well as providing general feedback and advice. They can also be a useful means to share information throughout the community. If you are looking for a more direct and structured way to gather information directly from the residents, a resident council could be the answer.
Involve Family Members
Family members and other visitors are a great resource for deeper insight into any thoughts or concerns regarding overall care. The purpose of surveying residents isn’t to receive 5-star reviews. The goal is to use feedback to improve the quality of life in the community. With this goal in mind, family members can become natural advocates to help lead to positive changes. Whether residents enjoy face-to-face visits or telephone conversations with their loved ones, their families and friends have insights your staff might not. Talking to them can be a valuable opportunity to gather information about residents’ needs and opinions.
Start Incorporating Elder Resident Feedback Into Your Business Processes
Feedback is an essential part of growth and improvement in any business. However, it’s particularly important in senior care facilities where residents may feel their opinions go unheard. When feedback is honest and complete, it can provide valuable sources of information that allow you to keep a consistent measure of the quality of care within your establishment. Browse our blog to learn more about the ways you can improve the quality of care for both residents and staff members in your long-term care facility.
In the long-term care industry, forward-thinking CEOs have also become Health Care Heroes for their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From wireless nurse call systems to innovative Smart Badges, technological advances have helped to combat the virus. With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccinations now underway, long-term care residents and employees can finally envision the day when isolation and loneliness in nursing homes will be a distant memory.
But as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines continues across America, many workers still have unanswered questions about the vaccination process. One of the biggest questions among working Americans is, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” This question is particularly relevant among healthcare employees and essential workers whose jobs require direct contact with other people. Below is a detailed response to this question. We also discuss some steps businesses can take to foster a safe work environment for employees.
Are There Times When Workplaces Can Require a COVID-19 Vaccine?
It’s possible, but only under very specific circumstances. Some workplaces may be justified in requiring vaccinations if employees who have not been vaccinated present a threat to their colleagues. The most compelling cases for a vaccine mandate are those that involve a high likelihood that non-vaccinated employees would put colleagues, customers, and visitors at risk:
“Employers may require vaccines before employees return to the worksite if the failure to be vaccinated constitutes a direct threat to other employees in the workplace because the virus is rampant and easily transmitted in the workplace,” – Robin Samuel, Attorney, Baker McKenzie
A few long-term care providers have already taken the stance of requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, however some state governments are looking to ban employee vaccination requirements altogether. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that workers check with their employers to learn about specific state or local laws that may require them to be vaccinated. You can start by talking to your manager or Human Resource Director. Many employers distribute or post details in highly visible locations such as break room bulletin boards.
What Do Professional Healthcare Organizations Say About the Vaccine?
The American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) recently penned a letter to healthcare workers. In their letter, they do not directly answer the question, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” However, they urge healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine and discuss their experience with other people:
“As frontline caregivers, our essential role in protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities goes beyond the care we provide. As a valued and trusted voice, our example is perhaps the strongest health resource we have. Our hope is simple; we urge you to get the COVID-19 vaccine and share your experience with others.” – American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association
Notably, the letter uses the word “hope” multiple times with regard to vaccination. They acknowledge that the vaccination “does not signal an immediate end to our nation’s suffering.” But the vaccine is viewed as necessary in order to overcome the virus and potentially bring an end to loneliness in nursing homes and other COVID-19-related challenges.
Could the COVID-19 Vaccine Become Mandatory in the Future?
“Once we know more about the vaccine, it’s possible that it will become mandatory. We need to know much more about how long the vaccine protects people and what may happen over time.” – Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
As more people are successfully vaccinated, questions about the future may arise. For instance, it’s natural to wonder, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine in the future?” or, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine for frontline workers who are pregnant?“
The federal government does not currently require that individuals receive the vaccine. But this stance could change in the future as more information becomes available about the vaccine and its long-term effects. The best thing to do is follow state, local, and federal news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. By remaining informed, you can prepare yourself and your employees for the future.
What Can Businesses Do to Emphasize Safety as the Vaccine Is Rolled Out?
The process includes giving clear responses to concerns like, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” while highlighting the many positive aspects of the vaccines. Here are some simple steps businesses can take to create a safer work environment while vaccinations are underway:
- Step One: Educate workers. Make sure all employees know when they are eligible to receive the vaccine and provide information on how they can sign up. Distribute details in writing and verbally.
- Step Two: Encourage vaccination. Share the letter distributed by the AHA, AMA, and ANA to motivate employees to do their part.
- Step Three: Remain positive. Address loneliness in nursing homes by focusing on a healthier future as more people are vaccinated.
By following these simple steps, you can make sure your employees stay educated and informed about the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also outline its impact on the workplace. Most importantly, you can put your business on the path to a safer, brighter future.
Today is International Women’s Day, which is a day set aside each year to commemorate the achievements of women. First observed in 1909 in New York City, it’s now a global holiday for celebrating the many contributions of women to society, culture, politics and business.
How are you going to celebrate? For those in the Senior Living industry, we recommend registering for the McKnight’s Women of Distinction celebration.
McKnight’s Women of Distinction
This 2-day virtual celebration is organized by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living. It recognizes and honors an amazing slate of women who inspire others and have a powerful effect on the lives of the individuals they serve in the senior living industry.
This year’s event, held virtually on May 18 and 19, celebrates women in three categories.
- The Hall of Honor is for senior-level professionals in the C-suite or at a level equivalent to vice president or higher and have made a significant impact on their organization or the long-term care industry. This year, 19 women are being inducted into the Hall of Honor.
- Veteran VIPs are women who have worked in senior living or skilled nursing for more than 15 years, and whose hard work and unrelenting dedication has helped make life better for countless residents. This year, the first for this category, 15 women are being recognized as Veteran VIPs.
- Rising Stars are women under age 40 or with fewer than 15 years of experience in the senior living or skilled nursing fields. These 17 women have demonstrated an exceptional commitment at the community or corporate level.
In addition to celebrating and being inspired by this year’s honorees, attendees can learn from, engage with, and listen to the industry’s A-list leaders, network with peers, and get insights into issues important to women leaders working in long-term care today.
Learn more about McKnight’s Women of Distinction 2021.
Caregiver of the Year Award
RCare has its own slate of amazing women to recognize. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing with you the inspiring stories of the three amazing women who were selected for this year’s RCare Caregiver of the Year award. We’re excited to tell you more about these three women making a difference in senior care.
Myron Kowal, CEO and Founder of RCare Inc., has announced his retirement. Webster native Jeffrey Knauss will acquire the business and serve as CEO of the company upon Kowal’s retirement. Myron Kowal and Richard Moore, the original architects of the RCube, will be continuing with RCare in an advisory capacity.
“Light precedes every transition. Whether at the end of a tunnel, through a crack in the door or the flash of an
idea, it is always there, heralding a new beginning.” – Theresa Tsalaky
Self-advocacy. The ability to speak up for yourself. The power to ask for the care you need. What started as just a word transformed into a passionate idea, a dream of what eldercare should be. It’s this dream for the future of eldercare that grew into the thriving business of today, RCare. For RCare founder Myron Kowal, it all started when a bed-ridden family member couldn’t successfully advocate for help when he needed it. Kowal knew he had to step in. Acquiring basic parts from RadioShack, he got to work on building his very first nurse call system.
Answering the Call
That defining experience and the persisting idea of self-advocacy ignited a glowing passion in Kowal. He poured himself into improving and advancing nurse call systems for the eldercare community and the caregivers within it. In an industry that spends countless dollars trying to figure out what residents need, Kowal has always believed the solution is simple: residents need to be able to advocate for themselves and to know that when they call for help, it is going to arrive. Kowal believes nurse call to be an extension of the elder, their voice when they’re in need. He and his team have worked tirelessly to create call systems that improve the lives of elders while supporting care partners in providing better care.
Since its founding in 2006, RCare has been installed in nearly 1,400 facilities, has expanded available features, and has developed award-winning mobile capabilities. RCare has been honored by the Rochester Business Journal as a “Rochester Top 100” company and Kowal was personally recognized as a COVID-19 Hero for RCare’s work during the pandemic. Their systems help ensure more than 100,000 calls per day are answered. It’s safe to say that Myron Kowal and RCare have contributed to helping countless elders find their voice and advocate for themselves.
Passing on the Torch
Reflecting on what he has built, Kowal said he is proud and humbled. “Passing the RCare torch is bittersweet. It was absolutely critical to find a successor who would continue to grow RCare, and who would never relent in the mission to be the voice of the elder. I’m grateful that Jeffrey Knauss answered the call. I know he’ll continue to provide the innovation and the vision that will allow caregivers to provide better care.”
Knauss, a Rochester Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner, spent 27 years refining his skills in all aspects of the value chain from marketing to engineering to R&D. An expert in business strategy development, product development, and sales channel management, he has the experience and skills necessary to continue to scale a flourishing RCare business.
Different Leader, Same Mission
When considering his next move, Knauss said, “Two things about RCare stood out: the location in the community where I grew up, and the impassioned focus on improving the lives of not just elders, but also those who care for them.” An avid volunteer, Knauss served eight years as Vice Chairman of the Board at the Mary M. Gooley Hemophilia Center in Rochester, NY. “It was this experience that sparked a deep admiration and gratitude for the support that nurses provide not just medically, but emotionally for their patients. It was the nurses that made their mission possible,” Knauss said. The symmetry between this experience and the RCare mission was undeniable.
Knauss said that he looks forward to continuing to drive the RCare mission, creating products that help caregivers seamlessly do what they do best. He is also excited to build a legacy of his own at RCare. “I look forward to generating continued growth in this local community, which is my hometown.” The original architects of the RCube, Myron Kowal and Richard Moore, will be remaining with RCare in an advisory capacity.
Long-term care communities rely on their employees to keep things running, set the tone of the community, and show compassionate care to their residents. Those employees are the bedrock of the community. They’re the reason why residents get the care they need and have a positive experience while living within the community. Employee Appreciation Day is an opportunity to give back to those employees and show them just how valuable they are.
The Benefits of Showing Employee Appreciation in Long-Term Care Communities
Employee recognition and appreciation matter in any workplace. Showing employee appreciation in long-term care communities may be even more valuable. Consider these four benefits:
1. Employee appreciation increases morale.
After a hard year, many employees are struggling to keep up morale in general. Showing appreciation for employees in long-term care communities can help improve their moods and morale, giving them the tools they need to keep working hard in the future.
2. Employee appreciation is directly tied to company culture.
Employees who receive the appreciation they deserve are more likely to give their best and show a positive attitude. These elements are critical when it comes to caring for individuals in a long-term care community. Employees who know they are appreciated are more likely to go above and beyond, show residents a high standard of care, and interact well with other staff members. These are all key elements of company culture.
3. Appreciated employees are engaged employees.
Around 85% of employees across industries report not being engaged at work. For long-term care facility employees, that can mean disengagement with residents or lack of attention to the details of care, which can substantially decrease the treatment those individuals receive in the facility. Appreciation in the workplace, however, can raise employee engagement and get your employees back to providing the standard of care your residents deserve.
4. Employee appreciation in long-term care communities can decrease turnover.
Employees in long-term care facilities have a median turnover rate of around 44%. But showing your employees a high degree of appreciation can increase the likelihood that they will stay with your organization, which can help improve the standard of patient care.
5 Ways to Show Employee Appreciation in Long-Term Care Communities
This past year saw many long-term care facilities struggling with budget challenges. That can make it more difficult than usual to shower your employees with the appreciation they deserve. However, there are several strategies you can use to improve your employee appreciation efforts that may not cost as much as you think. Take a look at some of these suggestions and how you can make them work for your facility.
1. Invite residents to join you in saying thank you.
Your residents and their families are highly appreciative of your facility’s employees, especially in a year where family visits have been restricted. Your employees have, in many cases, had a lot more contact with those residents than their family members have had. Invite your residents to join you in saying thank you. Some ideas are:
- Have residents make cards for specific employees. You can assign employees to residents at random or encourage residents to create cards for their favorite employees — or both! Encourage your residents to include specific reasons why they appreciate the employees who work with them every day.
- Ask residents to help put together a banner (or several banners, depending on the size of your facility) that expresses their appreciation for employees in the organization. Encourage them to sign their names and write positive affirmations and thanks to the workers.
- Have residents participate in an event that expresses why they appreciate all the employees in the facility. Encourage them to share the things they appreciate most about your employees, including the actions they take. Give them the chance to give speeches or to otherwise share their appreciation verbally.
2. Don’t forget the support staff that makes your daily routine possible.
When you’re showing appreciation for employees throughout your long-term care facility, make sure you take notice of the employees that often remain behind the scenes. This list includes the cooks, janitorial staff, maintenance personnel, and more. All of your employees deserve appreciation, especially after this year! So highlight the contributions of those employees with signs, banners, and emails that detail the efforts they put forth every day to make your community a happier one for your residents.
3. Give the gift of time to show employee appreciation in long-term care communities.
If you’re on a tight budget, then you may be able to offer your employees a gift that costs little: the gift of time. Without understaffing your facility to accommodate this idea, consider:
- Offering your employees additional vacation time.
- Providing them with longer breaks throughout the course of those employee appreciation days.
- Offering them some work hours when they can relax.
That gift of time can help employees relax in ways that they may not usually have the chance to over the course of a normal workday.
4. Provide specific, written recognition to employees.
Let employees know that they are seen — not just by the residents in your long-term care facility but also by the management team. Send out emails or offer a written note that specifically thanks them for what they do. Try to take note of what sets specific employees apart.
For example, is there an employee who always seems to be positive and upbeat, even in the midst of trying times or difficult shifts? What about an employee who always seems to see what’s needed most and takes care of it without anyone noticing? Show that you have seen these attributes in your employees and offer them specific appreciation and recognition for them.
5. Offer small rewards.
Bring in doughnuts, give out a small candy treat, or offer employees gourmet coffee treats for a day. While these things do have a monetary cost, they may not substantially impact your budget. But they can certainly go a long way toward letting your employees know that you appreciate their efforts. Make sure you combine these efforts with direct thanks or recognition for employees.
Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to show your long-term care facility employees how much you have appreciated them and their efforts, not just this year but in all the weeks and months before it. Help them see how valuable they are by providing them with recognition and thanks on this important day.
Last updated September 1, 2020
What is the 5-Star Quality Rating System?
Each community is unique, with distinct resident needs, caregiving processes, and more. RCare takes the time to build customized, lasting solutions to meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve.
In 2008, the CMS star ratings system was created for the Skilled Nursing Industry by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The system rates communities on a scale of one (lowest) to five (highest) stars in three areas, as well as assigning an overall star rating. The three areas of evaluation are: Health Inspections, Quality Measures, and Staffing.
The results are made available to consumers and families, on an easy-to-use website called Nursing Home Compare, to help them evaluate and compare skilled nursing communities. They can also be used by state agencies and regulators, payors, and business investors or lenders, to evaluate facilities.
Since its inception, the system has been changed and improved numerous times, most recently in March of 2019. These changes are planned and well communicated. But did you know that in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to rock the senior living industry and the country as a whole, it also led to rapid, temporary changes to the 5-Star Quality Rating System, changes that affect all three of the star ratings.
Changes to the 5-Star Quality Rating System Since COVID-19
Temporary Changes to the 5-Star Quality Rating System due to COVID-19, issued in July, 2020:
Because of the pandemic, and its dramatic impact on congregate living communities, CMS waived the requirement to submit data for the Staffing rating through the Payroll-Based Journal system. As a result, many facilities didn’t submit Q1 staffing data by the May, 2020 deadline. Therefore, instead of updating Staffing star ratings in July as scheduled, CMS kept existing ratings in place, those based on data from the last quarter in 2019.
An exception was made for facilities that had missed a previous deadline for Staffing data submission. Those communities had been downgraded one star as a late penalty. Rather than letting that lower rating persist, CMS opted to completely suppress the Staffing star rating for those communities, and instead is displaying “Rating Not Available” through September, 2020.
CMS waived the requirement to complete and submit timely resident assessment information, given the concern that the assessment results could be impacted by the residents’ reaction to changes imposed by the public health emergency. As a result, CMS continued to update Quality star ratings based on data through December 31, 2019, but then paused. It is not updating Quality star ratings for data collected after January 1, 2020.
More specifically, according to the Five-Star Quality Rating System Technical Users’ Guide, issued by CMS in July, 2020: “The MDS-based QMs will continue to cover 2019Q1 – 2019Q4. Four of the claims-based measures (long-stay and short-stay hospitalizations and ED visits) will be updated and will cover the time period January 1 – December 31, 2019. The short-stay QM, rate of successful return to home and community, will continue to cover October 1, 2016 – September 30, 2018.”
Health Inspection Rating
The Health Inspection star rating is based on inspections conducted up to and including March 3, 2020, but will not be updated to include data collected after that. Results of health inspections conducted on or after March 4, 2020, will be posted publicly through a link on the front page of the Nursing Home Compare website, but will not be used to calculate a nursing home’s Health Inspection star rating. CMS will communicate changes prior to when normal updates of Health Inspection ratings resume.
In March, 2020 CMS announced a new targeted inspection plan related to keeping patients safe from COVID-19, to commence on March 4. These targeted inspections focused on threats to patient safety and infection control, an attempt to identify situations of “immediate jeopardy.” This resulted in an increase in the number of facilities inspected, and the nature of the inspections, but it also led to a disruption in normal health inspection schedules. As a result, CMS paused updates to the Health Inspection star rating during the pandemic.
RCare is a global provider of nurse call systems for the entire spectrum of eldercare and senior living. Our mission is to improve the lives of elders and those who care for them. Our innovations are designed with the resident at the center, while providing helpful and user-friendly technologies that make the environment more comfortable and pleasant–and that ultimately lead to better outcomes.
With RCare’s reporting tools, you can measure important information about calls, such as call volume, frequent callers, and response times, to help you improve the experience of elders and their families, and staff work loads. For communities with multiple facilities, Enterprise RMetrix provides a dashboard that makes it easy to compare facilities on key metrics, by day, month or quarter. RCare gives administrators the kind of reporting that turns data into insight, and insight into action.
Every community is different, and RCare takes the time to understand the unique resident needs, caregiving process, and other issues, to build customized solutions that last.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen – wildfires, hurricanes, and even global pandemics. And the year is only half over. “Be prepared” is not just a motto for scouting. Knock on wood, your community or healthcare facility won’t need to evacuate suddenly, or to expand quickly to handle a surge in patients. But it never hurts to be prepared, to be ready to protect your residents and to make sure operations and care can return to normal as quickly as possible. In fact, Federal law requires that Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities have written plans and procedures to meet all potential emergencies.
If you haven’t been thinking about your community’s emergency preparation plan, let the events of this year be the nudge you needed to get started. And as you’re creating your plan, here are five helpful tips to make your plan more effective.
Disaster Planning Tips
- Data Backup: Start by assuming that every technology system in use in your facility is built on a database that stores important data, such as patient information and incident information. If you were to lose your system to a disaster, would you lose all your data history? Your answer should be no. All data for all your systems should be backed up regularly and stored safely offsite, to be ready for you should you need it.
- Data Restore: Just as important as backing up the data is restoring it. If faced with a hardware or system failure for any reason, can you restore and make use of your data again? It’s important to schedule periodic tests to be sure that backups have been done successfully, with no data corruption, that restored data is accessible, usable, and that you are able to restore the data and resume operations quickly.
- Hardware Backup: With your data safely secured, it’s important to have a plan for replacing your hardware quickly. whether it’s due to a normal hardware failure, or a flood or fire or other disaster. Be sure to have a source for the equipment that can ship quickly. In the midst of an emergency, you can’t be waiting weeks for back-ordered equipment. Be sure your plan includes a complete list of critical hardware to replace. And be sure that your systems, and your backed up system data, are compatible with your new replacement equipment.
- Peripherals: In addition to the system server, many systems have peripheral devices used by caregivers such as printers, phones, and monitor screens, as well as resident or patient devices, such as pendants and pull cords. When you’re recovering from an equipment failure, the biggest time investment will likely be inputting the settings for the peripherals, to reconnect them to the system. Strategize now about the best way to input or restore device settings as efficiently as possible, to get the system back to work. At the minimum, keep a hard copy of your plans and settings, and store it safely to be sure it’s available should it be necessary to rebuild your systems. Better yet, can the settings be backed up and restored like other data? Whatever you decide, don’t overlook this critical piece of your recovery plan.
- Temporary Solutions: Another consideration is having a stop-gap solution that you can swap into place in the short-term, while you wait for your systems to be restored to their normal functioning. Even in a crisis, your residents need to be equipped with an emergency call device. If you need to relocate your operations to another facility, or to expand temporarily into another location, a portable or stripped down system may be necessary to help you continue to provide care.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.
How RCare can Help
RCare is a global provider of wireless nurse call and personal emergency response systems for the entire spectrum of eldercare and senior living. We’ve given a lot of thought to disaster preparation and recovery, because we know your call light system is critically important for the health and safety of your residents.
Rapid Deployment Kit – Portable Nurse Call System
Our Rapid Deployment Kit is a portable nurse call systems in a box, designed to be installed quickly, even outside of normal healthcare environments. It’s a temporary nurse call solution that has been employed nationwide by health systems to create temporary field hospitals to care for the surge of COVID patients. It’s quick to deploy, quick to take down, and easy to store. And it can help you be prepared in the event of an emergency. Learn more about RCare’s Rapid Deployment Kit.
Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Service for RCare’s Nurse Call Systems
RCare’s Data Backup and Disaster Recovery service minimizes disruption of service and recovery costs for our clients. It provides regular software backups, with data securely stored offsite. It also provides hardware protection, with a quick replacement of your RCare nurse call system hardware, no matter what the reason, with the replacement guaranteed to be compatible. System and device settings are also backed up, so that peripherals can be put back into use quickly and reliably. Learn more about RCare’s Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Program.
You can count on RCare every day to provide excellent, reliable nurse call capabilities for your community. And when the chips are down, you can count on RCare to help you provide the best possible care.
The Rochester Business Journal (RBJ) announced that RCare’s CEO, Myron Kowal, has been selected as a 2020 recipient of the Health Care Hero award. This annual award celebrates and recognizes excellence, promotes innovation, and honors the efforts of organizations and individuals making a significant impact on the quality of healthcare in the Rochester area.
RCare’s Kowal is being recognized as a COVID-19 Hero, a special category created this year to honor individuals and organizations making exceptional efforts to help fight the COVID-19 health crisis and address the unique health care needs caused by the pandemic.
Headquartered in Webster, NY, RCare manufactures wireless nurse call and emergency monitoring systems for long-term care and senior housing communities. During the early days of COVID infections, RCare saw an unmet challenge. As cases were surging and hospitals were reaching capacity, providers were forced to create makeshift triage areas, tents in parking lots as well as full-scale temporary hospitals. These temporary solutions were missing the high-quality, reliable nurse call systems that play an integral role in safe patient care.
RCare’s response was to create a portable, durable, wireless nurse call system, a simple solution that could be set up quickly and easily, particularly in non-traditional patient settings. This special nurse call system, called the RCare Rapid Deployment Kit (RDK), is a nurse call system in a box. It’s completely plug and play, so it can be installed in minutes, even in non-standard settings that may lack traditional infrastructure, while providing the reliability of a hospital-grade nurse call solution. The kit provides effective, reliable nurse call communications between patients and caregivers, or between equipment (such as ventilators) and caregivers, even in non-healthcare, field operation environments.
Through the initial wave of infections, the RDK was installed in field hospitals throughout the country. One example is UMass Memorial Hospital, which created a 216-bed “pop-up” hospital in the 50,000 square foot Exhibit Hall of the DCU Center in Worcester, MA, to handle their patient overflow.
The DCU Center is an indoor arena and convention center in downtown Worcester. In April, its Exhibition Hall was converted to a field hospital to help nearby UMass Memorial Hospital handle the overflow of COVID-19 patients, those sick enough to require hospitalization, but not ICU care or a ventilator. The center was repurposed to act as both a field hospital led by UMass, and a shelter for homeless people who were positive for COVID-19. The installation was quick, smooth, and successful.
The hospital was created in a 50,000 square foot exhibition hall with cube-type barriers separating patient spaces. Nothing about the setting was traditional. Nothing could be permanently mounted. The server was placed behind folding tables that nurses used for charting, on a box, with the paging encoder on top of it. Locators were hung on centrally-located poles with tie wraps. The server and paging encoder were plugged into a network switch with a patch cable. Pendants were given to the staff for distribution to patients as they were admitted.
Sean Grady, Unit Director for UMass Memorial said this about the installation: “The RCare rollout was probably the best of any vendor rollout involved with the DCU project. From project management to technical install, it could not have gone any more smoothly. I can tell you that the nurse call system has worked great for us at the field hospital we have set up in Worcester.”
The installation happened very quickly, despite the tight schedule and chaotic environment. The goal was to complete the entire hospital in just ten days. In fact, UMass smashed the goal and completed the project in only 8 days. Even as the nurse call system was being installed, the IT department was setting up computers and networking infrastructure, Pharmacy was loading Picsys machines, Biomed was setting up their equipment, contractors were running the O2 infrastructure, and news crews were there documenting the whole thing.
The RDK nurse call system includes a touchscreen server, one pendant for each patient, and four pagers. No internet connection is needed for the system, and no phone lines. The system is preprogrammed by the integrator, to be ready to use right out of the box. This capability is mission critical for overworked clinical staff who have neither the time nor the technical expertise to spend on installation. Each kit is designed for 40 patients, although expansion kits allow it to be used for many more. As easily as it is installed, the RDK can be uninstalled when the hospitals are no longer needed, and redeployed if needed again.
RCare’s founder and CEO Myron Kowal will be accepting the award at an exclusive virtual awards ceremony at noon on August 24.
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, is an American holiday that commemorates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States were finally freed. Although the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 abolished slavery in the United States, many slaveholders didn’t comply with the order until Union troops arrived to enforce it, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. June 19, nicknamed Juneteenth, was chosen as a day to celebrate freedom for all.
New York’s Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order this year, recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. He said in an accompanying statement, “Friday is Juneteenth – a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States – and it’s a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history. Although slavery ended over 150 years ago, there has still been rampant, systemic discrimination and injustice in this state and this nation, and we have been working to enact real reforms to address these inequalities.”
RCare is closing early to allow our team to join in the celebration, to honor our nation’s rich and diverse history, and to take time to reflect on America’s achievements and its flaws, and its efforts to address the ongoing social injustice that continues today against our brothers and sisters. It is our hope that by honoring Juneteenth, RCare is making a small contribution to making this country a better place.