Implementing Infection Control and Quality of Life Best Practices in Nursing Homes With Project ECHO: Protocol for a Patient-Centered Randomized Controlled Trial

William A. Calo, Erica Francis, Lan Kong, Ruth Hogentogler, Emily Heilbrunn, Abbey Fisher, Nancy Hood, Jennifer Kraschnewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Nursing homes in the United States were devastated by COVID-19, with 710,000 cases and 138,000 deaths nationally through October 2021. Although facilities are required to have infection control staff, only 3% of designated infection preventionists have taken a basic infection control course prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most research has focused on infection control in the acute care setting. However, little is known about the implementation of infection control practices and effective interventions in nursing homes. This study utilizes Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes), an evidence-based telementoring model, to connect Penn State University subject matter experts with nursing home staff and administrators to proactively support evidence-based infection control guideline implementation. Objective: Our study seeks to answer the research question of how evidence-based infection control guidelines can be implemented effectively in nursing homes, including comparing the effectiveness of two ECHO-delivered training interventions on key patient-centered outcomes such as reducing the number of residents with a COVID-19 diagnosis. Methods: A stratified cluster randomized design was utilized. Using a 1:1 ratio, we randomly assigned 136 nursing homes to ECHO or ECHO Plus arms. Randomization was stratified by geographic location, baseline COVID-19 infection rate, and facility capacity. The study had two phases. In phase one, completed in July 2021, nursing homes in both study arms received a 16-week infectious disease and quality improvement training intervention via real-time, interactive videoconferencing and the ECHO learning model. Phase one sessions were up to 90 minutes in duration. In phase two, completed in November 2021, the ECHO group was offered optional 60-minute office hours for 9 weeks and the ECHO Plus group received 9 weeks of 60-minute sessions on emerging topics and an additional 8-session refresher series on infection control. Results: A total of 290 nursing home facilities were assessed for eligibility, with 136 nursing homes recruited and randomly assigned to ECHO or ECHO Plus. Guided by the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework, we will simultaneously evaluate the study's effectiveness and implementation outcomes at baseline (intervention start date), and at 4, 6, 12, and 18 months. The primary outcome is the COVID-19 infection rate in nursing homes. Secondary outcomes include COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, flu-like illness, and quality of life. Surveys and interviews with participants will also provide data as to the adoption, implementation, and maintenance of best practices taught throughout ECHO sessions. Conclusions: A multipronged approach to improving infection control and emergency preparedness in nursing homes is important, given the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on residents and staff. The ECHO model has significant strengths when compared to traditional training, as it allows for remote learning delivered by a multidisciplinary team of experts, and utilizes case discussions that match the context and capacity of nursing homes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere34480
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Implementing Infection Control and Quality of Life Best Practices in Nursing Homes With Project ECHO: Protocol for a Patient-Centered Randomized Controlled Trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this