Georgia State University, Emory Supporting 187 Georgia Nursing Homes COVID-19 Response via Project ECHO

January 6, 2021

As of Fall 2020, nearly one-quarter of the known COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been nursing home residents and staff. Advanced age, underlying frailty, and communal living conditions make nursing home residents especially vulnerable, and their reliance on nursing home staff members put these essential workers at high risk. The CDC and State of Georgia have prioritized nursing home residents and staff members to be the first to get the vaccine.

Faculty at Emory University and Georgia State University (GSU) have been awarded $600,000 by the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network (NNHCAN) to provide training and mentorship to nursing homes in Georgia. The new NNHCAN was created under an AHRQ contract worth up to $237 million that is part of the nearly $5 billion Provider Relief Fund authorized in 2020 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Georgia's participating nursing homes can receive $6,000 for completing the class, which could be $1M of support to Georgia. Since the beginning of the project in early November, Georgia's NNHCAN ECHO team has trained 564 staff across 187 individual nursing homes that serve collectively over 10,000 residents.

The goals of the NNHCAN project are to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care communities and to stop the spread of SARS-COV-2. "Through the targeted training of nursing home personnel - who can then select, implement, and evaluate best practices to respond to this public health issue - we hope to see significant reductions in the spread of SARS-COV-2," said Dr. Ted Johnson, Professor and Director of Georgia's Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program.

GSU serves as the ECHO hub for the project, recruiting nursing homes to take part in the 16-week virtual training program and managing the ECHO training and data platform. The ECHO model is based on the idea that to learn complex ideas, guided mentorship is needed in an "all teach, all learn" environment. All participants are encouraged to share best practices and learn from their peers - while benefiting from the guidance of nursing home and quality improvement experts. Weekly training sessions using videoconferencing technology are facilitated by small multidisciplinary teams of subject matter and quality improvement experts. Dr. Emily Graybill, clinical associate professor in GSU's School of Public Health notes, "The ECHO model promotes both learning from experts and learning through a community of practice. Nursing home staff across Georgia have the opportunity to share and learn best practices from each other, in addition to learning from our content experts"

The GSU School of Public Health ECHO team also includes Dr. Erin Vinoski Thomas, research assistant professor, Raynell Washington, research coordinator, and students Mariana Ortiz and Madeline Mercer. There is no cost to the nursing homes to participate in this training and mentorship program.

Contact [email protected] for more information.