mask , vial and syringe on top of COVID vaccination cards
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Improving the care experience in senior living and other long-term care settings by improving care quality while reducing costs is the goal of one senior living organization participating in a federal immunization pilot program.

Hickory, NC-based senior living operator ALG Senior is one of three organizations — along with Saber Healthcare Group and UPMC — participating in the Moving Needles initiative, led by AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

The pilot program, which kicked off July 13, aims to set industry-wide standards for resident and staff immunizations. It is part of the five-year initiative, which is backed by a $10.5 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant.

Infectious diseases, ALG Senior Chief Medical Officer Kevin O’Neil, MD, told McKnight’s Senior Living, are common in senior living settings and can lead to staffing shortages as well as hospitalizations and resident deaths. The pilot, he said, will “intensify and accelerate” efforts already planned.

“Infection prevention and control is one of our five major priorities,” O’Neil said. “Immunizations can prevent disease, which is much better and more cost-effective than treating a disease once it occurs.

“Nothing is more important to quality care than consistent staffing by competent and caring associates,” he added.

O’Neil said that ALG Senior’s participation was a result of Elizabeth Sobczyk, MSW, MPH, AMDA project director with the CDC Cooperative Agreement in Immunization, contacting him as an active AMDA member. She also was familiar with ALG Seniors’ work “to ensure that our residents and staff are educated and have access to recommended adult immunizations.”

ALG Senior implemented a mandatory influenza vaccine policy for its staff members in 2019 and now is “intensely focused” on encouraging employees and residents to receive other recommended adult immunizations, O’Neil said. ALG also implemented a mandatory employee COVID vaccination program.

As part of the Moving Needles initiative, over the next year, clinicians at nine sites — three sites per participating organization — will assess, recommend, administer and document relevant routine adult vaccinations, including vaccinations for influenza; COVID-19; pneumococcal disease; tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap); and shingles for residents, and influenza, COVID-19 and hepatitis B for staff members.

ALG Senior rolled out its pilot programs July 13 at three Charlotte, NC-area communities: Wexford House Assisted Living, East Towne Assisted Living and Willow Ridge Memory Care.

Each site, O’Neil said, will obtain the vaccine histories of residents and staff members and offer recommended vaccines. Each community has a project champion and co-champion for both residents and employees, and they will work with the project nurse and the vaccine vendor to train staff members and residents about vaccines, host “vaccine parties” and collect the data. 

ALG Senior will monitor progress, address barriers and provide any necessary training and support through monthly calls with each site, he said.

“Encouraging and providing recommended immunizations to staff show that we care for them and want to keep them well,” O’Neil said. “These measures improve the care experience, improve the quality of care, and reduce the cost of care,” he added, citing the triple aim of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“It can also lead to positive business results through increased length of stay and improved occupancy,” O’Neil said.