In the early days of the pandemic, three needs quickly arose for the Good Samaritan: an easy screening and reporting tool to keep families informed, a way to keep residents connected with their loved ones and the ability to recruit staff members when in-person interviews weren’t an option.

The Technology Solutions team rose to the challenge and met all of these needs while also keeping the organization’s networks safe from cybersecurity threats.

“It was very clear what was a priority,” says Brandon May, director of technology for the Good Samaritan. “Everyone pushed toward a single goal.”

Online screening tool saves time, helps keep families informed

When the pandemic started, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required that skilled nursing centers report any symptom changes in three or more residents or staff within 72 hours.

If symptoms were identified, a mass notification also needed to go out to staff and family members.

Read more about how the Society’s Connection Center has been reaching out to families during the pandemic.

The Technology Solutions team brainstormed how they could automate symptom reporting and notifications in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Fortunately, early COVID-19 processes and procedures were in place within the electronic medical record (EMR) that helped in automating the process. Nurses were already assessing residents at the beginning and end of each shift and entering the data into the EMR.

Technology Solutions developed a web app for staff member screening. On the back end, reports were created that captured both the resident screening results and the employee results to support the new reporting requirements. The app gathers the data needed for reporting any new positive tests to CMS.

Brandon remembers the requirement came out early one week and the solution was operationalized at all 140-plus skilled nursing locations by the following week.

“It was a big push to automate it as much as possible to ensure our location staff could continue to focus on resident care,” he says.

Since the online screening tool launched, almost 2.2 million assessments have been done. That includes 1.3 million resident assessments and 800,000 staff screenings.

iPads became vital

When visitors and medical providers were no longer allowed to come inside Society locations, leadership thought of ways they could continue to provide residents with social interaction.

“Our main goal was to focus on resident well-being,” says Brandon.

The Society decided to purchase iPads for each skilled nursing and assisted living location, which resulted in a quick turnaround for the technology teams. In a little over a week, the team purchased, configured and deployed iPads to each of these locations.

Since then, the iPads have been used for telehealth calls and video visits with family and friends. There have been 15,000 combined virtual visits between residents, families and providers.

Strength in numbers

Technology Solutions has helped locations with virtual town halls and supported the transition to a 100% virtual interview process by enabling the human resources team to deploy virtual communication software such as Zoom and Webex.

They’ve also helped locations by overnighting essential items and adjusting employee security access.

“We’re helping people continue to do their jobs,” Brandon says.

He points to the affiliation of Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan as the reason for the team being able to do all they’ve done.

“The organization rallied around this,” he says. “Through COVID-19, everything the team did points back to the residents and caregivers.”