AHRQ creates COVID-19 training network for nursing homes

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality along with the University of New Mexico’s Project ECHO and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement have partnered to establish a network that will provide training on COVID-19-related safety practices for nursing home employees.

The network, dubbed the National Nursing Home COVID Action Network, was established as part of $2 billion in congressional funding HHS received from Congress under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to improve infection control in nursing homes. The network is part of an AHRQ contract valued up to $237 million.

Nursing homes are vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19 because of the age, frailty and sickliness of residents as well as the communal living practices. In response, the federal government has offered support to nursing homes through additional funding and training opportunities.

“Protecting vulnerable older Americans in nursing homes is a central part of our fight against COVID-19, and we’ve learned that improving infection control in many nursing homes is not a matter of will but of skill,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. “AHRQ is deploying its unique expertise in partnership with Project ECHO and IHI to help nursing homes protect both their residents and staff from the virus, slowing the spread and saving lives.”

The more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement can participate in the network. The training is 16 weeks long and uses a curriculum established by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Some of the topic areas of the training program are best practices for using personal protective equipment, infection control practices during COVID-19 and how to manage asymptomatic or mild cases of the virus. The curriculum will be modified as more is learned about the virus, AHRQ said in a news release.

Project ECHO is reaching out to academic medical centers and health centers that can host the training program for area nursing homes.

Training sessions will also be available online each week and hosted by quality improvement experts.

Nursing homes that participate actively in the network will receive $6,000 to cover staff time spent training, according to AHRQ.

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