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How COVID-19 is Impacting Immunization Requirements in Healthcare Education

October 20, 2020
Immunization Requirements in Healthcare Education

COVID-19 has changed the healthcare landscape, and not just for those seeking care. Healthcare students participating in clinical and residency programs are entering an environment filled with new protocols for health and safety, including guidelines for COVID-19 testing.

COVID-19 Testing Guidelines and Requirements

To reduce the risk of transmission and protect patients, visitors, and staff, healthcare organizations have implemented a range of new protocols for COVID-19 testing and prevention. As a result, students participating in healthcare education programs must now comply with new rules for testing before beginning their on-site clinical training.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released new guidance for COVID-19 testing for the student healthcare population. As “the essential, emerging physician workforce” necessary to fight COVID-19 and other illnesses, the AAMC recommends medical students should, where possible, continue in-person clinical rotation experiences during the pandemic and be tested regularly for COVID-19.

To help the students at your college or university meet clinical site requirements for COVID-19 testing, you’ll need to communicate the requirements to students, verify the results and documentation you receive, and track overall student compliance. However, as is the case with other immunizations and tests, effective tracking involves more than requesting results from students and submitting the information to affiliated clinical sites. You also need to understand variations in testing requirements and deadlines across clinical sites, as well as the kinds of testing methods and results each site will accept.

Here are some key differences in clinical site COVID-19 requirements you will need to look out for when tracking student compliance:

  • Timing of the test:Some clinical sites may require students to be COVID-19 tested within a certain time frame before participating in on-site training programs. Understanding acceptable timetables will help students prepare, so they can begin clinical programs on time.
  • Types of required tests:Healthcare settings may have different requirements for COVID-19 diagnostic vs. antibody tests. Sites may also prefer one type of diagnostic test over another, e.g., molecular PCR tests or rapid antigen tests.
  • Acceptable testing methods:Clinical sites may accept results based only on certain testing methods, for example, throat or nasal samples taken at a doctor’s office or local testing site, as opposed to other methods such as at-home sample collection.
  • Requirements for retesting:Depending on testing results, some clinical sites will require retesting within a specific time period ahead of the student’s arrival to their training site.

How to Build Compliance with Healthcare Education Requirements

To prepare your students for the next stage in their healthcare education, it’s essential to track student compliance with changing COVID-19 testing requirements at the locations where they will undergo clinical training. Covering all the bases for testing, immunization, and other health records will help you avoid inaccuracies and delays in paperwork. When you avoid delays, students can begin participation in their clinical programs on time.

For an effective testing and immunization tracking program, you need to create an environment where students understand requirements, and you have the necessary tools to help them comply. The easier it is for students to submit requested information, the greater your chances of success. To build and operate an efficient tracking program, take the following actions:

  • Make requirements clear: Provide students with the testing parameters, required forms, and deadlines, so they have clarity on the actions they must take for compliance. After the initial communication, you will also need to send reminders and let students know when items are still outstanding.
  • Provide ample time for testing: Take into account the testing and retesting timelines required by clinical sites, and provide students with a broad testing window so everyone can avoid a last-minute scramble.
  • Verify results for validity: Enlist support from qualified healthcare professionals to help verify test diagnostic and antibody results, as well as acceptable testing methods.
  • Use immunization tracking software: Instead of tracking manually with paper or spreadsheets, you should automate your student health data, keep it secure, and use cloud-based tools to track student compliance with clinical site requirements.

How Your Immunization Compliance Provider Can Help You

Without the necessary support and resources, it can be difficult to keep track of all the various clinical site requirements, particularly as they continue to change as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, tracking student compliance can be further complicated by the sheer number of documents and other information submitted by students.

To build an efficient student compliance tracking program, you will benefit from working with a provider who can help you collect and track student health data in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). With the necessary compliance support and technology, you will also be in a better position to verify student health data for accuracy and completion ahead of their participation in clinical training programs.

With best-in-class immunization compliance support, you can take advantage of the following benefits:

Immunization tracking technology

A total immunization compliance management system stores all of your student testing and health information, and automates communication with students and your clinical site partners. It offers the following features:

  • A fully cloud-based solution, providing you and your students with 24/7 anywhere access
  • Easy navigation with a modern design
  • Scalable capabilities allowing you to adapt to evolving COVID-19 testing requirements
  • Automated student reminders
  • Seamless integration with clinical rotation systems

HIPAA and FERPA compliance

An immunization compliance provider who meets the highest standards for data security and protection can help you satisfy regulatory requirements for securing student health information. HIPAA-compliant messaging allows you to share student data with encryption and avoid allowing access to unauthorized individuals.

Support from knowledgeable healthcare professionals

When you receive testing results and documents from students, you need to verify their validity before sending the information to clinical sites. With the support of medical professionals who know how to interpret results and identify potential red flags, you can reduce the chances of having student testing results rejected by clinical sites due to the wrong testing method, the wrong type of COVID-19 test, or incomplete results. Trained healthcare professionals can also answer student testing questions and provide guidance for retesting, where applicable.

Staying abreast of changes impacting your program

As the pandemic continues, there are likely to be new and changing requirements, both from clinical sites and regulatory bodies. As a result, your immunization and testing tracking program will need to evolve with those changes. Your immunization compliance provider can offer new tools and keep you updated, so you stay in the know about significant developments affecting your program.

Improve Student Compliance Tracking in the Time of COVID-19

The success of your immunization tracking program depends on your ability to navigate evolving testing requirements for students continuing their healthcare education. To satisfy new COVID-19 testing requirements, you need the technology and tools to track and verify student-submitted health and testing data, so you can deliver the necessary information to clinical sites on time.

As the leader in college electronic health record management, Medicat offers a total, integrated solution to help you communicate with students and collect required records for health, immunization, and testing. We deliver the tools and support to help you manage end-to-end student compliance with requirements for health records submission, immunizations, and health testing.