On April 27, 2020, in anticipation of federal regulations requiring long-term care facilities to inform and update residents and their designated representatives about COVID-19 cases, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) issued Communication Guidelines for providing such information. The guidance exceeds the expected regulations from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
ISDH is requiring long-term care facilities, including nursing facilities, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and residential care facilities, to provide to residents and their designated representatives the following:
- Briefings regarding how the facility is handling issues with care and any staff shortages;
- General information about COVID-19;
- The total number of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the number of new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last fourteen (14) days;
- The number of residents who have died due to the COVID-19; and
- Facility mitigation actions implemented to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
ISDH also outlined more specific communication requirements, as follows:
- Facilities should assign a staff person in the unit or facility to be the contact person for residents and their designated representatives. Facilities should also provide a secondary number for residents and their designated representatives to call in case staff voicemail boxes are full or cannot accept messages, or facilities should have a compliance or customer service hotline available.
- Effective May 4, 2020, facilities must send daily (at a minimum Monday through Friday) group emails, automated voicemails, or other automated electronic communications to residents’ designated representatives informing them of the total number of COVID-19 cases, new cases in the last 24 hours, and deaths in the last 24 hours within the facility.
- Facilities should complete the Facility Emergency Transfer Form weekly and email it to the local ombudsman every Friday.
- The local ombudsman’s contact information should be provided to every resident and designated representative.
In addition, long-term care facilities must communicate the facility’s COVID-19 status to potential residents and their designated representatives prior to admission. Long-term care facilities are also encouraged to develop COVID-19 communication strategies with other family members in addition to the resident’s designated representative.