Weeks have become months of social/physical distancing and it’s clear we have entered a “new normal” when it comes to how home care agencies will need to operate today, and into the future.
For an industry already going through seismic change in recent years, COVID-19 has ushered in a wave of new questions, challenges, ideas, and solutions to support clients, workers and organizations. Health care as no “pause” button so this change happens in real time.
Earlier in May we hosted a webinar along with experts from Hireology, Home Care Pulse and Care Academy to explore digital best practices that agencies can use to survive the current turmoil, and future-proof for a post-pandemic world. This explores many of the most important themes.
First: the state of home care right now
The last two months have been an exercise in embracing rapid change. Our experts talked at length about what they’re hearing from the front lines, including some revealing recent statistics within Home Care Pulse’s industry impact survey.
At first, service was paused for many clients whose loved ones cared for them while sheltering in place. That has now given way to an increase in demand as adult children must re-focus on returning to a physical workplace – and as we see a retreat from long-term care facilities, which have sadly become epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks.
To manage such demand, and to keep staff safe, many agencies are turning to digital solutions. In fact, to date, the survey has found that upwards of 70 percent of home care agencies are now going virtual on everything from training and hiring to scheduling and billing.
What we see is a landscape of additional questions, and the need for ongoing clarity on the best digital foot forward.
On deck: 8 key digital strategies for agencies
On a positive note, we are all lucky that technology has advanced to its current state when this health crisis began. It would be very difficult to keep people safe and businesses running without modern innovation.
Here are some highlights of key digital strategies that home care organizations can employ to address specific needs, both during the immediacy of the pandemic and throughout our industry’s new normal.
- Hire remotely: As demand for home care spikes, workforces must expand: to find top talent, use automated screening processes embedded with specific questions to respond to applicants as soon as they apply. (An important consideration, given that lengthy gaps in replying to potential candidates can erase 90 percent of leads.) Automate the collection of CVs and cover letters. Equip HR teams with video-conferencing solutions to interview candidates from afar. Enable your agency to pre-board jobseekers as efficiently as possible. Remote hiring is here to stay as a viable solution. Learn more about AlayaCare's integration with Hireology.
- Adopt video conferencing: A no-brainer, right? The real point here is the diverse benefits this tech can bring. Welcome to the age of virtual team meetings, employee training, client assessments, and more. COVID-19 demands that we scrutinize which care interventions can be done over video, what services can be safely administered virtually. (On that note, visit our virtual care suite to see what we’ve put in place.)
- Screen clients: In March, AlayaCare rolled out screening tools for caregivers and clients. Two months later, screening remains imperative, and the right solutions must evolve and go beyond COVID-19 symptoms to include such factors as available family support, when meds must be refilled and grocery status – all of which keeps clients safe at home. Setting up screening now will prepare you should a future pandemic wave return, or a different infectious disease enter our lives.
- Leverage online care plans: Tap an online care plan library and daily activities log to keep communication fluid and flag potential issues in real time. Software that quickly identifies vulnerable clients and deploys automatic health and safety reminders via service instructions to caregivers can ensure everyone is reminded to take proper precautions.
- Deepen remote monitoring: Plenty of client care and chronic disease management can be performed outside the home. Remote patient monitoring was becoming a key part of home care before the pandemic, and its importance has quickened. Regular check-ins with clients is vital for continuity of care, relationship building, and preventing poor health outcomes. It must be part of any home care software platform. (Our RPM app includes a COVID screener in the self-health check.)
- Monitor employee health: It can be chaotic to stay on top of the schedules of staff working at home, or on the road, let alone their health amidst a pandemic. Use technology to track any ill staff. For example, AlayaCare set up a new time off/unavailability element, and a special pay code for quarantined staff members. (More on that here.) For employees who are returning to work after being sick, a post-illness assessment can keep them and others safe.
- Think outside the box: Explore the world of complimentary digital solutions. Tech companies that focus on specific aspects of home care, including AlayaCare’s ecosystem of partners, are fast on top of new ways to support this industry during the COVID-19 crisis. Any problem encountered by an agency, from minor to significant, may have a ready-made technological solution available right now. If you’re an AlayaCare client, reach out to your team to explore the options.
- Don’t forget your website: Remember that most jobseekers prefer applying directly to a company’s website, so ensure it is in proper order. Websites that haven’t been updated in some time are easy to spot, and it can be frighteningly easy to seem behind the times. Make sure your public-facing messaging is on point, and your behind-the-scenes SEO is ensuring people are finding you in Google results. This is important for potential hires, clients and partners.
As much as this pandemic has introduced unforeseen challenges to our industry, it has also opened up new opportunities to truly move home care to the forefront of our health-care system. Use what technology has to offer now to improve client outcomes, deliver a greater level of service, and pin safety to efficiency.