In May 2020, the federal government began releasing payments from the
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Provider Relief Fund through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These funds took the form of general and targeted distributions which expired on June 30, 2021. Therefore, if a facility has not invested with these funds, the hospital or long-term care facility risks leaving behind. money on the table.
It’s time to stop spending that money on medical consumables and apply it to a lasting solution. If these consumables are billed elsewhere in the facility supplier fee, this could be interpreted as a double deduction. This practice is not permitted and will result in unused funds. These precious dollars should be used to make lasting improvements. How the organization allocates money matters, and flexibility exists in sorting out appropriate uses even now.
Crouching timothy, director of accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA), provides CLA accounting software to help healthcare providers identify appropriate uses. CLA acknowledged that many of its customers find it difficult to know how to use these funds. The product they developed helps track expenses and is continually updated by HHS.
Federal funds for pandemic relief have resulted in hundreds of thousands, and often millions of dollars, appearing in the accounts of eligible health care providers. Hospitals, nursing homes, and intermediate institutions began to receive direct deposits from the federal government. Executives and accountants have tried to figure out what will be forgiven, what a loan is and what will need to be repaid. These funds provide a resource to move forward towards a solution. If the alarm bells are ringing, it may not be too late to capitalize on this infection control money. CLA is in discussion with IPs to place unused funds into contracts to be used for assessment services and infection control. The company can offer information on deadlines and advice on relief funds from providers.
No quick fix
Air management is a huge problem involving many components. Don’t expect to find a quick, all-in-one solution and warn other decision-makers against such solutions. A good air management solution will require the treatment of many pollutants. People spend about 90% of their time in confined spaces, according to the WELL International Construction Institute. Inhalation exposure to indoor air contaminants leads to a variety of health problems, such as headaches, asthma, cancer, ischemia, high blood pressure, heart disease, and infections caused by pathogenic viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. Indoor pollutants are on 1000 times more likely to be transmitted to the lungs; thus, the management of indoor air quality is very important. Effective monitoring and proactive precautionary measures can prevent exposure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred revolutionary technological advances in products. For example, veriDART by SafeTracesharnesses patented DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic aerosol mobility and exposure to identify high-risk infection hotspots and transmission routes. The tracer can be released at a location mimicking a sick patient and the previous pathway identified. It is a real, data-driven tool for the assessment and remediation of infection pathways. In one recent project Led by Kevin Grosskopf, PhD, professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Department of Energy used veriDART to assess and validate ventilation measurements in residential care environments.
RHP risk management, which specializes in the assessment of IAQ, building ventilation and biological contaminants, currently uses the technology for its clients and considers veriDART essential to validate environmental controls, according to RHP.12
When it comes to air management, manufacturers adopted a quote attributed to management expert Peter Drucker: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. It is considered a trademark in business. Currently, manufacturers offer assorted air cleaning solutions that include the good, the bad, and the unhealthy. A question to ask yourself before buying: do these technologies allow integrated air monitoring? Without air monitoring, the application and functionality of the technology is immediately questioned. For example, a UV-C lamp may not have the exposure time required for disinfection. It’s a bit like operating a heating and cooling system for a large facility with a window unit.
Getting reliable and tested systems that use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) and UV-C technology is one thing; application to achieve functionality (the appropriate selection of technology) is another. Without the ability to measure air quality, air improvement is subjective.
“Recognizing the nature of the airborne spread of COVID-19, it is of the utmost importance to establish and maintain an adequate level of indoor air quality,” Gary Shubinsky, PhD, President and CEO of LightWave SensorTech LLC, a Chicago, Ill. based tech company that designs and manufactures advanced UV systems for IAQ, said in an interview with Infection Control Today®. “The right path to achieving this level is only through an integrated system of complementary air management technologies, including a combination of airflow management, filtration, purification and real-time monitoring. “
LightWave’s methodology is correct. A sustainable air management solution will require proper engineering, not a stacking approach involving unproven products. One concern is that decision makers will fall into the short-sighted trap of selecting piecemeal products that require frequent maintenance, with inconsistent performance and low reliability. Essentially, the concern is to use a short term dressing solution for a long term problem. Little, if any, improvement in the ability to provide healthy indoor air and cope with seasonal influenza or future pandemics will result from this approach. An integrated and holistic IAQ solution, which is informed and addresses key IAQ issues, is required.
An integrated solution involves the use of complementary technologies throughout building management. It needs:
- alignment of the performance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with building pressurization;
- air filtration requirements and a safe and customizable air purification system; and
- a network of air management sensors (differential pressure, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, thermal, humidity and airflow) that provide real-time building analyzes.
Combined, these parameters optimize cost, performance efficiency and infection control for a sustainable and consistent quality of life. A solution where air quality can be quantified and improved will provide a healthy environment and a future ventilation solution. The ability to address current and future infection control concerns will be addressed and the improvement in indoor air quality will be measurable. These solutions are available and the technology and services are there. To get there, you need to look for a partner who not only sells a HEPA filter or UV lamp, but who will provide a measurable understanding of indoor air quality and therefore infection control in a building.
Cedric Steiner is a licensed nursing home administrator in Lancaster County, Pa. With a particular interest in infection control in long-term care facilities. Steiner is looking for partners for a webinar that he hopes will promote a holistic approach to indoor air management. Contact him at [email protected] or @SteinerGS for integrated solutions and infection control problems related to indoor air quality.