Long Term Care Outbreaks: Why Communication is Key

As cold and flu season is upon us, it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure you stay in the best health possible to stop the spread of illnesses. For Long Term Care facilities, communication is key to controlling health outbreaks and keeping residents safe.

Reduce the spread of outbreaks

Creating alerts for outbreaks as soon as they occur can greatly reduce the spread of the illnesses and decrease mortality rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are among those most at risk of developing flu-related (or other infectious) complications. It is also noted that long-term care outbreaks occur most frequently throughout the winter months than any other time of the year.

Outbreaks that occur in long-term care facilities are critical as some can lead to substantial morbidity and mortality and are disruptive and costly. The most common types of Long Term Care outbreaks being gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.

In 2017, there were a total of 166 influenza/ILI outbreaks that occurred in Long Term Care Facilities across Canada, this accounted for 57% of total influenza/ILI outbreaks in the country. The most common causes of spread include person-to-person, point-source, and hazardous foods.

Keep stakeholders informed

While managing an outbreak, communication is one of the most important aspects to keep in mind. Outlined in the Winnipeg Reginal Health Authority’s General Principles of Outbreak Management, a key responsibility of the team is to communicate necessary outbreak details to major stakeholders. This ensures they are aware of the situation and are provided critical information to keep them and Long Term Care residents, safe.

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care states that homes should have communication-related policies and procedures, such as a policy relating to “ongoing and effective communication with residents, families of residents, staff and the media”, to combat respiratory (and other) outbreaks in the facility.

Providing timely and accurate information to stakeholders ensure staff is able to control the outbreak and contain the spread of the infection.

Return time to direct care

Although communication procedures are crucial in keeping facility residents safe, it also shifts time away from direct care of residents. The number of manual calls needed to inform resident family members of an outbreak is incredibly time-consuming and quite costly.

For example, a Long Term Care facility with 100 beds could spend up to 20 hours and cost up to $740, manually contacting resident family members for a single outbreak:

Average time per call: 12 minutes
Number of beds in the facility: 100
Average wage of a registered resource calling: $37/hour
Average time spent contacting families: 20 hours
Total cost: up to $740 per outbreak

This makes it vital for Long-Term Care facilities to have communication policies and procedures in place that are integrated into the workflow. By using industry best practices, communication requirements can come as a ‘second thought’, and allow time to be released back to direct care.

With effective communication plans in place, it makes it easy for Long Term Care facilities to focus on what’s really important.


To learn about Cliniconex’s automated outbreak notifications and other family engagement solutions, have a chat with our team today.

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