At AlayaCare, we firmly believe that altering the delivery of care in small, strategic ways can open doors to newfound efficiencies. These will be key for home care agencies that aim to deliver top-quality service, seize industry momentum, and stay nimble with changing times.
Considerable brain power is being invested across the board to determine how to most cost-effectively deliver support to older adults and those with disabilities at home. This includes, of course, governments at all levels. Take recent news out of Ontario, with the CBC reporting that the provincial government may implement a new public agency that would recruit and employ its own personal support workers.
Couple that with new laws that can impact home care – such as Ontario’s new Bill-148, which hikes minimum wage and focuses on scheduling and shift work -- and it’s clear these are times of uncertainty and change for business.
While change is inevitable, there are minor yet creative tweaks – particularly when it comes to scheduling – that an agency can employ to preserve reputation, bolster efficiency and, ultimately, continue to grow.
Scheduling tweaks for top care delivery
AlayaCare releases positioning papers every so often that bring our ideas to the public arena. One recent paper focused on the Ontario government’s new patients-first action plan; in particular, its goal of how to deliver better coordinated care in the community, closer to home. (In other words, our bread and butter.)
By addressing how home visits are scheduled, care can be delivered more efficiently. Our numbers show that home care agencies stand to reduce their field workers’ travel time by over 30% per week and the amount of time spent scheduling and rescheduling by up to 35% a week through the use of modern software solutions. And all without a great deal of fuss.
Our top tweaks?
Create windows of time. We firmly believe that windows of time, as opposed to to-the-minute appointments, lay at the heart of optimized scheduling. Rather than trying to maintain a fleet of caregivers mapping their days according to precise times for client visits, agencies could offer windows of time (a technique employed by many other service professionals). For example, a client might expect a visit from a caregiver between 9 a.m. and noon, instead of at exactly 11:00 a.m.
This permits greater freedom to build highly efficient schedules for each day of the week, and doesn’t represent any substantive change in service to clients. The more hours in that window, the more nimble schedulers can be. Only when it’s imperative would a time-specific referral be added to the system.
Give patients more control. A complementary piece to time windows is an online patient portal, which would allow clients to express their preferences for coordinating visits. Through such a portal, clients can also get a sense of the intricacies of scheduling, and feel empowered to help direct their own care – a win/win situation for everyone.
Employ variable pricing. Further reinforce those tweaks with pricing arrangements aligned with supply-and-demand curves. (This would fall, of course, on the government for any publicly-funded care.) For example, to lessen the constraints of 8 - 11 a.m. high-demand visit periods, clients could opt for non-peak times or shorter visits during peak times, and the pricing model would reflect that. Agencies that receive more funding for peak-time visits would likely be able to offer additional visit windows to clients, ensuring the continuity of quality care.
This is just a brief look at different ways of thinking about optimal home care delivery -- something that all agencies should challenge themselves to consider as the home care landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace. For more of our thoughts on this particular subject, be sure to download our position paper on Resource Planning in Ontario LHIN Funded Home and Community Care, or contact us anytime.