4 tips to improve caregiver experience through scheduling and route optimization

Katherine Lawless Posted on May 12, 2022

In a recent survey AlayaCare released with Home Health Care News (HHCN), over 60% of respondents identified that their employees were overworked and burned out. Without efficient scheduling and commuting routes for home care visits, most organizations are dealing with increased caregiver burnout, and other challenges such as travel costs, late or missed visits, and more.  

Tanya Foster [a Careline worker] says it takes at least 15 minutes, and probably more, to walk between visits. Journeys by car or public transport take even longer. “In an ideal world the care calls would all be close together but they’re not,” she says. That means she and her colleagues end up being routinely late.” - The Guardian, Care workers forced to cut short home visits or be left out of pocket. 

Additionally, with the spike in gas prices across North America, inefficient schedules can lead to hardships for home care workers who might not get fully reimbursed for their travel time if they have a fixed mileage reimbursement rate. 

Higher caregiver work satisfaction is important for any home care business to provide the highest quality of patient care and maintain employee retention. In the AlayaCare and HHCN survey, missed/late visits, scheduling, and routing are among the top 10 pain-points caregivers face. The more these pain points linger unsolved, the more stressed and burned-out caregivers will be.  

Home-based care pain points and opportunities in 2022 report download

4 tips to help improve caregivers’ work experience through scheduling and route optimization 

1) Focus on your caregivers’ strengths and skill sets when pairing with patients 

 Every caregiver you employ has a unique set of skills and strengths. You hired them for a reason, so you should utilize their strengths and skills by pairing them with the right patients. To make this easier, let’s explain this with a scenario. 

If one of your caregivers, let’s call her Sarah, has a high degree of patience with difficult patients, time-manages well, and excels at communication and calming stressed patients. It would be ideal to schedule Sarah with patients with whom she can use her skills and strengths. If she is paired with a patient who suffers from disorders like Alzheimer's or bipolar disorder, for example, she can tap into her skills easily in calming the patient when they get stressed or agitated, not only making the patient’s experience better but hers as well.  

If you have a caregiver, let’s name him Jack, whose skills are not as strong in communication or calming patients, pairing him with a bipolar patient, for example, may lead to a more stressful situation. He also might not be able to utilize his strengths either if he is often paired with patients that don’t require those skills often in their care.  

Therefore, pairing caregivers with patients where they can use their strengths will not only increase patient satisfaction but also your caregivers’ work satisfaction. Reducing caregiver stress in home care.  

2) Reduce your caregiver’s commute time by scheduling patients in close proximity to their home and factoring in their mode of transportation 

No one likes long commutes, especially if your job requires you to commute from patient home to patient home multiple times throughout the day. Not all caregivers have the luxury to drive a car to each of their scheduled appointments, some must walk, bike, or take public transit to get to each patient.  

Imagine the hassle if you must take an hour bus ride or drive 20-30 minutes in rush hour to get from one patient to another. No wonder being late or missing appointments is one of the top ten pain points identified in the survey!  

If caregiver Sarah, from our previous scenario in tip #1, takes the bus to each of her appointments and is scheduled for patient A for 2:00-3:00pm and their next appointment is scheduled for patient B for 3:30-4:30pm across town, a 25-minute bus-ride between them, she only has a 5-minute buffer period in case the bus is late, or the appointment runs over- which in a realistic world happens quite often. She is bound to be late quite a few times to patient B’s appointments.  

It would be more ideal to schedule Sarah’s appointments with patients in close proximity to her home but also have quick bus routes between them. For example, if she lives downtown, keeping all her patients in a close 2 to 3 mi (about 3-4 km) radius would help her with her commute time in between appointments. Considering that Sarah does not have a car and can only take public transportation, the appointments should be scheduled far enough apart to allow Sarah enough time to get from patient A to patient B with some buffer time in case the bus is delayed.  

Therefore, pairing caregivers with patients in close proximity to each other and the caregiver’s home, while factoring in the caregiver's mode of transportation when scheduling appointments will provide your caregiver with better work experience. This will also increase patient satisfaction by reducing late or missed appointments.  

3) Balance out your caregiver’s schedules to prevent overscheduling or under-scheduling  

Inconsistent scheduling was number 2 out of the top 5 reasons for employee churn for home care businesses in AlayaCare and HHCN’s survey. Caregiver burnout or lack of work are strong motivators for employees to leave and a big indication of low employee satisfaction at work.  

Even if caregivers stay, overworking or underworking will decrease employee satisfaction and increase stress, which in turn affects their quality of work. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Happy Employees Equals Happy Customers!” As cliché as that saying is, it is 100% accurate. Unhappy employees can negatively impact productivity, turnover, and overall efficiency of your business which in turn has a “knock-out effect” on the patients.  

Overworked or underworked caregivers are not happy caregivers. Find ways to balance out your caregiver’s schedules through technology or other organization methods so your caregivers aren’t over-stressed or underwhelmed by their work.  

Consider hiring more caregivers if you are finding it difficult to balance out overscheduled caregivers. Investing in more caregivers to help balance out the busy schedules will give your employees some breathing room and reduce work stress.  

If your caregivers are constantly underworked, perhaps your business needs to find new ways to gain more clientele. Invest in more marketing, patient database technology, or other ways to gain more patients to your home care business.  

4) Listen to your caregiver’s feedback to improve their work experience   

Lastly, one of the most important ways to improve your caregivers’ work experience is communication. Ask for their feedback and listen to what they are saying.  Don’t guess what will make your caregivers happy, more often than not you’ll find that the solutions you think will make your employees happy might be off base.  

Small fixes are not enough, look at the bigger picture by gathering data from your own caregivers and see what solutions you can find based on the feedback they provide you.  

How a home care day-to-day software with a schedule and route optimization feature can help you implement those 4 tips faster 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important asset when it comes to software innovation. From the AlayaCare and HHCN 2022 survey report, only 36% of home care providers say that their organization is investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The industry is beginning to grasp the utilization of AI technology for their day-to-day software.  

 “[There is also] a big danger in burnout for office staff as well [in home care organizations]. Because they get overwhelmed trying to make these schedules and deal with all the details that must happen to make every visit count.” - Naomi Goldapple, VP of AlayaLabs, HHCN Webinar 2022  

Consider software technology with AI that: 

  1. permits software to recommend minor changes and schedule re-shuffle for efficiency to help you schedule caregivers with the right patients efficiently  
  2. computes and factors all variables for shift/visit placement, ensuring your caregivers are paired with patients that meet their skills and strengths and their commute needs 
  3. has an algorithm that recognizes constraints and delivers to schedulers/coordinators with ideal routes and care worker suggestions, ensuring your caregivers aren’t under-scheduled or overscheduled and are provided with optimal schedules best fit for their individual work needs.

With AlayaCare’s home care software schedule and route optimization features, schedulers and coordinators have the tools to ensure they are efficiently utilizing current staff to their maximum potential. Serve more clients with existing staff with more favorable coordinators/schedulers to field staff.  

See AlayaCare's scheduling and route optimization tool in action!

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Topics: AlayaLabs, Employee Churn