With COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more accessible for a wide range of demographics across the United States, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Yet the vaccine clinics will continue for weeks to come across the senior living industry as providers facilitate vaccinations for their employees and affiliates.
“As the communities open up again we’ve got to keep our finger on the pulse, continuing to vaccinate new staff and residents,” said Patrice Johnson, director of partner success for Medication Management Partners (MMP), in a recent Transform podcast interview with host Tim Regan. “A large portion of the population is not vaccinated, and we have a long way to go.”
Crestwood, Illinois-based MMP, a dedicated pharmacy partner for assisted living, memory care and behavioral health communities across the country, has spent the last several months helping its senior living partners hold vaccination clinics, with Johnson serving an integral role in MMP’s efforts. During that time, MMP has developed best practices for offering a seamless clinic experience.
“It is important to understand that in the COVID-19 vaccination effort, each state has truly done its own thing,” Johnson said during a recent Transform podcast interview with host Tim Regan. “The subtle differences may surprise you, so being involved is the first step toward success.”
Education, facilitation and vaccination: a three-pronged approach
MMP was founded as a beyond-pharmacy solution that exclusively services residents in assisted living and memory care communities. With a mission to improve the quality of life and simplify pharmacy for both residents and staff members alike, the organization shifted its vaccine clinic offering to align with the needs of its partners and has developed a three-pronged strategy of education, facilitation and vaccination.
“This has been the first mass immunization of adults since probably the 50s and 60s, so it was incredible to see the need for basic education around how vaccines work,” Johnson said.
Through the use of webinars, live programs and Q&A sessions, Johnson and her team continue to support the residents, their families and community staff in making educated decisions about getting vaccinated. They provide staffing and billing information for local vaccination clinics with advocacy through national associations and community organizations. And they recently received an Illinois allocation of the vaccine, so they are providing vaccinations as a standalone organization as well.
“You can feel the energy in senior living right now,” Johnson said. “People are excited and relieved, and they are starting to feel more comfortable about bringing new residents into the community.”
Lessons learned for successful clinics
All of MMP’s efforts are making a significant impact on the senior housing industry and the communities that support it. In the current state of affairs, senior housing operators are seeing record highs of 90-95% vaccination rates among residents. This alone is providing an incredible amount of relief, and while staff vaccination rates lag further behind, they continue to increase as people get more comfortable with the idea of being vaccinated.
It may be another four to five months before operators can slow their pace, but there is an overwhelming sense of optimism, excitement, and positivity that is already helping with occupancy recovery.
Running a successful vaccination clinic is extremely simple, Johnson said, though a few fundamentals should be followed.
Based on her role running clinics across several states, Johnson underscored five few simple lessons learned:
- Prepare consent forms ahead of time
- Have all billing information accessible
- Adequately staff the clinic to keep it running efficiently
- Make sure residents and staff wear short sleeves
- Make it a celebratory atmosphere.
These events are tremendous milestones in closing out the disastrous COVID-19 chapter of American history. It is something to celebrate and cherish, she said.
As a result of greater accessibility and increasingly positive sentiment towards COVID-19 vaccinations, many operators are reporting that senior living is finally approaching a recovery, with vaccine clinics continuing nationwide.
“Not only are we seeing residents move in at a much higher rate than last year, but we are seeing communities take on large scale projects that they put off,” she said. “Many senior living communities put several things on hold during COVID, and now they are picking up again.”
This article is sponsored by Medication Management Partners. To learn more about how a trusted pharmacy partner can improve quality of life and simplify medication management in your community, visit mmprx.com.
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