The Coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on our country’s most vulnerable, with long-term care communities at the top of the list. The elderly are most at-risk for experiencing severe and life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19. Operating and managing Independent Living, Personal Care, and Skilled Nursing across three campuses, Redstone Highlands Communities took immediate action to protect the vulnerable populations that they serve. By partnering with ReturnSafe, Redstone has been better able to keep residents and staff healthy and safe and reduced community spread.

Proactive Pandemic Safety Is Top Priority for Redstone

Redstone first partnered with ReturnSafe to transition from a manual daily health screening process to a digital solution. Their previous system relied heavily on a front-office employee to help with written attestation and temperature checks, causing long lines at shift change. This process costs $14,000 per month to staff across 3 facilities. Additionally, when outbreaks occurred, these employees were also responsible for identifying and contacting exposed individuals, a slow and manual process. With staff shortages across the communities, keeping employees healthy to care for residents was essential, and speed and efficiency critical.

Employees have been reporting their COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, and contacts in ReturnSafe’s daily health screening app since July 2020. Administrators can monitor and respond to screening survey results through a centralized dashboard. The solution’s customizability makes it easy to adhere to the constantly evolving guidelines and requirements set forth by local and state public health agencies. Redstone estimates that they are saving $154,500 per year by using ReturnSafe for their screening process. 

Redstone also began on-site testing at all of their communities, which, combined with daily health screening, allows them to quickly identify and respond to potential outbreaks. By implementing these measures, Redstone has successfully kept their infection rate well below their county’s overall average.

“We were among the last to receive the vaccines because of our low positivity rate,” said John Dickson, CEO Redstone Highlands Senior Care.  See the interview with John Dickson.

Even before the COVID-19 vaccines were approved, Redstone administrators were surveying staff and residents on their willingness to be vaccinated. Early data showed that a majority of residents hoped to be vaccinated as soon as possible, but less than half (40 percent) of employees were willing to get vaccinated when a vaccine became available to them. Leaders at Redstone knew that increasing their population’s willingness to get vaccinated would be critical in achieving herd immunity. An informational brochure was developed that explained the vaccines in understandable and relatable language. Frequently asked questions were highlighted on “stall notes” hung in employee bathroom stalls. Respected leaders were readily available to answer questions and discuss vaccine decisions. Colorful vaccine hero buttons were distributed to those who were planning to be vaccinated and an upbeat video was produced, sharing testimony from all levels of employees who were ready to be vaccinated. 

On Monday, January 11, Redstone Highlands Communities held their first “Vaccine Day”. It was a very exciting day where residents and staff received the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the seriousness of the pandemic, there was a festive atmosphere as employees and residents embraced the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Three Keys to Overcoming Workplace Vaccine Hesitancy

As vaccines are rolled out across the country, reducing workplace vaccine hesitancy is top of mind for today’s HR executives. Individuals who are hesitant about taking the vaccine may be concerned about vaccine safety and health risks. Redstone originally expected 40% of their residents and staff would get vaccinated. However, as the first round of vaccines concluded they were able to increase participation to over 80% of employees and 99% of residents! How were they able to encourage adoption? Three core components were crucial to their success.

Be a Trusted Source of Information

Through the survey process, Redstone was able to identify the most common concerns about the vaccine shared among employees. Redstone established itself as a dependable source of vaccine information amongst staff and residents. Through the production of print materials, handouts, posters, letters, social media, and emails – myths about the vaccine were addressed and fact-based knowledge was provided.  

Establish a Safe and Inclusive Culture

Employees should feel safe and supported by their peers and management. They need to feel that their employers are taking adequate measures to keep them safe. In the case of Redstone’s vaccine initiative, morale played a major part in easing resident and staff concerns. At this time, Redstone has not made the vaccine mandatory. Redstone believes that creating an environment of safety and trust went further in increasing participation, without negatively impacting employee morale. Trusted Redstone leaders also fielded dozens of phone calls and in-person visits with employees to openly discuss vaccine concerns, and to be supportive partners in vaccine decisions.

Build Trust By Being Proactive

By establishing a simple and accessible screening and testing process, Redstone demonstrated that the health of their staff and residents was the top priority. These actions built trust between them and their community. Their consistent communication and dedication to informing their community have built upon that rapport. Employees and residents trusted Redstone and were willing to get vaccinated to keep their community safe. In addition, employee benefits and incentives were extended to those who chose to be vaccinated. For example, in the unlikely case that an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after vaccination, that employee will be provided with paid time off to complete the quarantine or to recover. Those who chose not to be vaccinated, elect to forego this benefit.

What should employers do to prepare for the vaccine?

There are many resources available to help guide you and your team as you establish a COVID-19 vaccine management plan. The best defense against workplace vaccine hesitancy is information to assure employees that they are making an informed decision. Like Redstone, employers should begin enacting measures now to encourage employee vaccine adoption.  The CDC provides a Vaccine Communications Toolkit for Essential Workers to help educate employees about COVID-19 vaccines. The toolkit informs employees of vaccination benefits, and addresses common questions and concerns. ReturnSafe provides vaccination management capabilities to help organizations on the path to herd immunity. This service includes surveying employee vaccination sentiment and tracking vaccination status across your organization.  Book a demo to learn more about ReturnSafe’s vaccine management and health screening services.