After the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington became the first long-term care facility to have a major coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, University of Washington (UW) Medicine partnered with the public health departments of Seattle, King County, and Washington State to develop a 3-phase response plan to prevent future outbreaks.

The plan included testing current residents of long-term care facilities who may show signs of COVID-19, providing infection control planning, education, and prevention, and deploying teams to provide on-site assistance with testing, clinical assessment, and triage.

The Life Care Center of Kirkland could have benefitted from a group of people to enter the building, assess the percentage affected, and triage. This deficit of care led to the creation of the first “drop teams,” said Danna Lei, ARNP, UW Medicine Post Acute Care Lead and member of UW Medicine’s COVID-19 drop team.

In addition to working their usual jobs, members of the drop team spent their personal time testing patients and performing infection control in long-term care facilities. The 25 drop teams that are part of the UW Medicine network conduct a “fast sweep” of testing upon their arrival to a facility so that residents can be effectively triaged, which then reduces the strain on local acute-care hospitals and emergency services. Drop teams can complete testing and triage services within 90 minutes, and test results are available within 24 hours.


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Though speed is a hallmark of drop team operations, there is considerable preparation behind the process. A drop team requires adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to be able to test 60 to 300 patients per facility. The teams use a buddy system to prevent fatigue and provide emotional support; one person stays outside of the room and one person in full PPE enters the room with the potentially-infected resident. Each pair tests 10 to 20 patients, depending on the size of the facility.

Ms Lei stated that drop teams are critical in reducing the burden on long-term care facility employees through rapid testing.

In April 2020, UW Medicine clinicians prepare a SARS-CoV-2 test at a long-term care facility in  Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.  Photo by Susan Gregg / UW Medicine

“Access to testing in the skilled nursing facility world is limited. Community lab partners have not been able to amp up the response that is needed. What we hear from the community is that they are waiting 5 to 14 days to get results and facilities burn through PPE waiting to hear,” Ms Lei said in a press release from UW Medicine.

The “drop-in” initiative is a multidisciplinary effort. Drop teams collaborate with the Post Acute Care team and infectious disease experts at UW Medicine and rely on communication with the Regional COVID-19 Coordinating Center to operate within the context of the larger health care system.

For more information about drop teams in the University of Washington Medical network, click here.

Reference

Brooks K. Drop teams prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities. UW Medicine. Published September 21, 2020. Accessed October 21, 2020. https://huddle.uwmedicine.org/people/in-the-community/drop-teams-prevent-covid-19-outbreaks-long-term-care-facilities.