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Title:Supporting the Healthcare Workforce in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic;
Supporting the Healthcare Workforce in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Author(s):Krishnan, Jerry; Weine, Stevan; Fretwell-Wilson, Robin
Abstract:Supporting the Healthcare Workforce in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Healthcare Workforce Impact Group Jerry Krishnan, Robin Fretwell-Wilson, Stevan Weine SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus disease first identified in 2019 (COVID-19), is responsible for the pandemic that is presently straining the Illinois’ healthcare workforce and is expected to continue doing so for the next several years. Prior pandemics and disasters have demonstrated that the scope of responsibilities for all types of healthcare workers evolves as a disaster unfolds, from meeting surging needs by prioritizing patient care, to re-balancing activities as each surge waxes and wanes, to recovery and mitigation, and finally to preparing for future disasters. This report presents a high-level summary of the current and expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare workforce and makes a series of recommendations about how to minimize the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers and their families in Illinois, now and over time. The report draws on well-established frameworks for response to pandemics and disasters distilled from a body of research and practice. We conclude that focused supportive actions are necessary to facilitate work responsibilities under new pressures—people, information, process, technology, equipment, space—and to promote personal wellness—physical and psychosocial. Many steps taken to ensure public and workforce safety have also introduced economic challenges that must be addressed in order to sustain these efforts to support the workforce throughout the response and recovery phases of the pandemic. Key supports for individual providers, such as hazard pay provided by employers or government1 and free hotel rooms or meals provided by private companies,2 have already begun in many places across the country, but applying these at scale remains a challenge. We include two case studies showing it is possible to respond to real needs of workers even in the midst of a pandemic, if institutions are committed, creative and nimble. CONCLUSION: EXTEND WHAT WORKS Some of the innovations highlighted in the case studies above may be promising statewide if they can be brought to scale, shared across the industry, and made sustainable. For example, hospitals that have significant human capital have developed protocols for insuring worker safety. By contrast, home healthcare workers, who have been deemed essential in Illinois and many states, say they lack sufficient information about ensuring their own safety and the safety of their clients. While trade groups can assist with best practices, adapting detailed protocols developed by hospitals with greater in-house capacity can help workers who work for smaller companies. Just as reimbursement rules have been modified to allow for telemedicine services, policymakers and insurers should explore whether similar flexibility is possible for community health services. Increasing coverage for their services will help vitally important community health workers to assist persons in need.20 Coordination and sharing of information (e.g., best practices, operational manuals) can reduce the costs to healthcare organizations that face tremendous strain now. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) promulgates best practices for public health efforts but is actively managing a pandemic. Ideally in partnership with IDPH, the new Illinois Innovation Network (IIN)21 with its 15 hubs, drawing on the expertise of 12 universities, provides an existing architecture for transferring knowledge learned at UI Health and other Chicago hospitals to hospitals across the state, including Illinois’ vital critical access hospitals. IIN is also helping with development of the healthcare workforce across the state. Some innovations may improve the way healthcare is delivered going forward. For example, changes in reimbursement for telehealth may provide the necessary conditions to serve as model of care for some patients and some conditions moving forward. Also, the efforts to provide temporary housing to workers seeks to allay the strain from long hours in high-pressure conditions. Policymakers should ask whether each innovation and recommendation above can lead to sustainable change.
Issue Date:2020-05-01
Publisher:Institute of Government & Public Affairs, University of Illinois System
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-04-16

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