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Looking to boost skin health and improve the prevention and treatment of wounds, Genesis HealthCare has launched a new program that will add about 200 wound care experts company wide.

Earlier this month, Genesis began hiring skin-health team leaders for almost all of its skilled nursing facilities. These full-time employees will be responsible for overseeing a multidisciplinary approach to skin health, coordinating care with advanced practice wound specialists and nurse aides, better understanding what leads to wounds, and implementing quality improvement programs.

“The idea of a Band-Aid mentality — that it’s all about the nursing care and the bandage — that’s only one piece of the puzzle,” said Jeanine Maguire, vice president of skin health and wound care integrations for Genesis. “We really need to dive deeper and investigate. This is big. Wound care is really unlike any other disease process.”

While wounds in the aging population are often caused by chronic disease such as diabetes and venous hypertension, Genesis’ holistic approach will take into account internal and external factors that need to be controlled, as well as patient wishes, Maguire said. Having a point person to connect dietary, therapy and other providers; align the right treatments and supplies; and keep frontline staff vigilant will also help facilities spot changes in condition that could first present as a wound.

While Genesis has appointed skin health leads in the past, they were typically nurses with other full-time roles. Maguire said having dedicated staff members at all buildings will be a critical hallmark of the new program, given the increased complexity of nursing home populations and despite other, ongoing staffing challenges dogging the skilled nursing sector.

Genesis did not disclose the cost of its new program, but providers are finding it can pay to invest staff time and other resources in wound care, especially when it comes to preventing pressure injuries. Last November, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services encouraged surveyors to focus on quality-of-care issues, listing pressure injuries as one of several key metrics it was concerned about back-sliding during the pandemic.

COVID-19, with its inflammatory mechanisms and treatments sometimes requiring prone positioning and ventilation, didn’t just affect skin health among those who had it. Infection control measures such as masking and frequent handwashing have also led to increased skin damage.

“COVID devastated skin at a global level,” Maguire said. “As we’re emerging, we hope, there is opportunity now for transformation.”

Maguire credits Genesis’ reorganization and the appointment of new chief operating officer Melissa Powell for helping her bring together a program she’s been working toward for 20 years.

Jeanine Maguire
Genesis wounds expert Jeanine Maguire

The Kennett Square, PA-based company said last fall that it was implementing a market-focused model to help “grow revenue, reduce costs and streamline the decision-making process.” Maguire said the wound care program fits that mold by adding expertise directly to the company’s centers.

“We were always scratching the surface but couldn’t quite break through,” Maguire said. “Melissa ‘gets’ and really endorses the idea of having this skin lead in every center. … Good skin health and management means better reimbursement under PDPM, it could mean better Five-Star ratings … more patients. It brings this halo effect.”

Job candidates for the new Genesis program are typically nurses or therapists; those who come without wound care certification will have up to one year to earn it. The Genesis training program includes a monthlong residency, regular coaching by long-time clinical wound experts, an internal website packed with wound care resources and research, and a 35-credit course.

The company also has expanded a 50-facility partnership with PointClickCare to use its Swift wound care module at all facilities and is standardizing its preferred wound care provider network to include ReNew Wound Care, a telehealth specialist with advanced practice providers.