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Partnerships with health systems can provide support to nursing homes during pandemic

July 13, 2020

Nursing homes are facing extreme challenges in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University -- including IUPUI -- faculty members lay out their case that meaningful partnerships between acute care hospitals and nursing facilities can support better quality of care for people who live in the facilities.

Regenstrief research scientist and Indiana University School of Medicine Associate Professor of Medicine, Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA, and Regenstrief research scientist and Professor at IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, Joshua Vest, PhD, MPH, wrote an editorial published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In it, they stated the benefits of collaboration between health systems and nursing facilities.

The authors highlighted how health systems can support nursing home staffing, which is critical to delivering quality care and a constant challenge, even in normal situations. COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges of maintaining staffing and, in some instances, created an additional need.

They also discussed how collaboration can facilitate the necessary virus testing within nursing homes and highlighted policy and economic drivers for better cooperation.

"Closer relationships can help reduce hospital readmissions and improve safety of transitions of care, which can have a detrimental impact on people living in long-term care facilities," said Dr. Unroe. "Health systems who have invested resources in developing relationships with nursing facilities are better able to ramp up and provide critical support during a crisis." Dr. Unroe led a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid demonstration project that successfully lowered the rate of avoidable hospitalizations in Indiana nursing homes.

"The pandemic is an opportunity to build on existing relationships between health systems and nursing facilities, as well as forge new ones," said Dr. Vest. "Access to testing, data sharing and leveraging of resources are all important to improve care during the COVID-19 crisis, and closer partnerships will provide facilitation and ultimately improve care for a population that is especially vulnerable during this time." Dr. Vest leads the Fairbanks School of Public Health's Center for Health policy, which conducts research and evaluates health system performance. His research focuses on technologies that enable the sharing of data between organizations.
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The editorial, "Time to Leverage Health System Collaborations: Supporting Nursing Facilities Through the COVID-19 Pandemic," was written in response to a paper published by a research team from the University of Washington. Drs. Unroe and Vest praise the work, which leveraged an existing university health system infrastructure to provide solutions and support to nursing homes during the outbreak. They believe the University of Washington's model demonstrates what is possible when investments are made in partnerships.

About Kathleen T. Unroe, M.D., MHA

In addition to being a research scientist at Regenstrief Institute, Kathleen Unroe, M.D., MHA, is an associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and a geriatrician practicing in the nursing home setting.

About Joshua R. Vest, PhD, MPH

In addition to being a research scientist with Regenstrief Institute, Joshua R. Vest, PhD, MPH, is the director of the Center for Health Policy and a professor of health policy and management at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.

About Regenstrief Institute

Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its research scientists are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.

Regenstrief Institute is celebrating 50 years of healthcare innovation. Sam Regenstrief, a successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute's research mission.

About IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI

Located on Indiana's premier research and health sciences campus, the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI is committed to advancing the public's health and well-being through education, innovation and leadership. The Fairbanks School of Public Health is known for its expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, cancer research, community health, environmental public health, health policy and health administration.

About IU School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

Regenstrief Institute

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