Nursing Home Residents and Staff COVID-19 Safety Focus of Innovative National Project ECHO Program

Community Health Center’s Weitzman Institute Launches First-In-Nation Training

Supported by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Project ECHO is launching the AHRQ ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network. Community Health Center’s Weitzman Institute, an ECHO “hub” since 2012, has been designated as the official Training Center for Connecticut’s nursing homes, and on October 22 will be the first in the nation to launch this critical program.  

The goal of the 16-week series is to collaboratively advance improvements in COVID-19 preparedness, safety and infection control. The virtual learning community will allow nursing home staff to learn from experts and each other to expand the use of proven best practices which can be implemented immediately.

The training will help nursing homes to: keep the virus out of homes where it has not entered; identify residents and staff who have been infected with the virus early; prevent the spread of the virus between staff, residents and visitors; provide safe, appropriate care to residents with mild and asymptomatic cases; ensure staff practice safety measures to protect residents and themselves; and reduce social isolation for residents, families and staff.

Connecticut’s two nursing home associations, along with the state’s Department of Health, have been strong supporters of the Nursing Home ECHO Project in Connecticut since its announcement in August, and commend The Weitzman Institute and the participating Connecticut nursing homes for being designated for the national kickoff of the initiative.   

“With a major uptick in new cases across the country and the growing increase in community prevalence right here in Connecticut, the launch of this interactive learning initiative focused on COVID-19 infection prevention and control is very well timed and will complement all of the important work being done as our state’s long term care communities prepare for a resurgence of the virus,” stated Mag Morelli, President of LeadingAge Connecticut.  “Everyone who cares for our older residents should be very concerned that our state’s infection rate is increasing, and we must continue to prioritize our vulnerable nursing home residents and their caregivers,” she added.

“As we move into the fall, with flu season imminent and no clear timeframe for a COVID-19 vaccine, embarking on a new course to improve our readiness to prevail against the virus is essential,” stated Matt Barrett, President and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities.  “A strategy of extra-vigilance in infection prevention and control is as important as ensuring that our nursing homes have adequate PPE, testing and staffing resources, especially with community spread on the alarming rise,” he added.

Both Morelli and Barrett said the strong and early commitment of Connecticut nursing homes to the Nursing Home ECHO project will benefit the Connecticut COVID-19 response and can serve as an example for the rest of the nation.

“We are proud that Connecticut is the first state in the US to launch this important national initiative and that the Weitzman Institute has been chosen as the training center,” commented Daren Anderson, MD, Director, Weitzman Institute. “Since 2012, Weitzman has been delivering Project ECHO sessions on a wide range of topics to help improve outcomes for the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our communities. This new Project ECHO for nursing homes will provide resources and expertise to help Connecticut nursing homes meet the challenge posed by COVID-19.”