The nature of pandemic pressures is constantly evolving — states have seen both waxing and waning of cases, as well as hospitalizations and severe outcomes. Yet, the data around current vaccines seem to hold steady in its effectiveness.
In fact, recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data indicates that vaccine effectiveness in all approved age groups is consistently high. Among those over 75 years of age, for example, effectiveness against hospitalization remains at just over 88 percent, while those over 50 saw 82 percent effectiveness against hospitalization and urgent care visits.1
Considering the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on older Americans and those with existing conditions, such as lung or autoimmune diseases, it is a relief for many that vaccination is now mandatory.
On September 9th, 2021, the Biden Administration announced several policies to enhance the nation’s approach to preventing and managing the spread of COVID. One component in particular, the requirement that workers and volunteers in healthcare settings that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, including hospices, hospitals, and home healthcare, be vaccinated against COVID-19 was advocated by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). According to the NHPCO President and CEO Edo Branch, “This requirement will improve health and safety for health workers, volunteers, patients, and their families.”2
Already On Board
As a result of both potential risk to patients and ongoing evidence of vaccine efficacy, some hospice providers had already made the choice to create their own vaccine mandates. For example, the Blue Ridge Hospice in Winchester, Virginia recently announced that all staff must be vaccinated by October 31st or risk losing their jobs. Medical or religious exemptions may be granted but all such requests will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary leadership group.3
While requiring staff vaccination may come with both operational and legal challenges for these hospices, many
Navigating The Road Ahead
So what comes next for hospice staff vaccinations?
First is the incorporation of vaccine policies into hospice evaluations. In much the same way that prospective patients and their families consider criteria such as total costs, available services, and staff skills when selecting a hospice provider, confirmation of a comprehensive vaccine or test program may become a make-or-break issue for hospices. In addition, resulting in significant fines for non-compliance could also have burdensome financial implications.
Second is the need to create a secure and reliable database of staff vaccinations to both satisfy legislative requirements and provide a reliable reference if booster shots are needed to ensure ongoing protection. In recent CNN and Politico polls, they found a quarter of voters and Americans respectively report being unvaccinated, with 82% of unvaccinated respondents in the CNN poll saying they have no plans to get the shot. Since a percentage of these respondents will be Hospice employees it’s clear that documentation may only be half the battle
But despite the requirement coming with possible operational and legal challenges for these hospices, purpose-built hospice software systems can help by streamlining the documentation of staff vaccination status, providing assurance that employee data is safe, and promoting the patient protection that the mandate was designed to create.
Looking to streamline hospice documentation and data? Discover how Net Health Hospice can help.
Best Practices to Eliminate Compliance Gaps in Hospices
Stay on track of compliance measures and goals for optimal patient care.
1 Food and Drug Administration, “Updates to COVID-19 Epidemiology and COVID-19 Vaccines,” September 17, 2021.
2 National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, “Leading Hospice Organization Applauds COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Health Workers,” September 9, 2021.
3 The Winchester Star, “Hospice to Require Vaccines for All Staff, Volunteers,” September 2, 2021.
4 Forbes, “Poll Finds Biden’s New Vaccine Measures Broadly Popular Despite GOP Outcry,” September 13, 2021.