Among the many themes demonstrated by the year 2020, we know now more than ever that, technology is now imperative to the delivery of home care. COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of change in an industry that was already experiencing waves of change; as we wrote back in the spring, it felt like we’d done 10 years of work in 10 days.
From recalibrating remote care to ensuring accurate documentation and tracking online, to introducing new virtual ways to engage clients and families in the circle of care, the entire home care industry is witnessing an expedited pace of technology adoption.
In fact, according to a 2020 survey we conducted with Home Healthcare News, 74 percent of home care organizations report having to re-think their virtual technology needs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies are increasingly conducting virtual activities, from training and scheduling to billing, client care, and more. Home care is fast becoming an orchestrated mix of remote monitoring, in-person care, and virtual appointments.
Governments around the world are taking notice of the imperative of virtual care too. Consider the recent introduction of the telehealth reimbursement bill in the U.S. So the question becomes: where are we headed now from the aspect of technology trends and virtual care as we collectively look to flip the calendar?
From technology-enabled to technology centric
There is, of course, plenty on the horizon in the ever-remodelling world of technology – many changes bearing direct implications on home care providers. One such innovation exists in the emerging area of virtual wound care.
Here, home health agencies can use technology to engage wound care specialists to provide remote advice when they’re at a client’s home. Specialists, in turn, can support home health nurses virtually with accurate diagnoses and evaluations for patients with chronic wounds. Technology can even play a role in digital imagery and wound measurements right through a smartphone app.
Technology is also increasingly addressing the persistent challenge of inconsistent hours, flux scheduling, and the resulting caregiver churn (median caregiver turnover is at an all-time high of 82 percent). Our very own AlayaLabs department is working to address this, by providing clients with actionable business insights and tools to help streamline travel times, improve quality of visits, and optimize shift offers for a better care experience for all.
These tech trends are certain to continue – because they work. Our data shows that the more precise use of data can increase a caregiver’s utilization by 10-20 percent while reducing weekly travel by 34 percent, scheduling time by 35 percent, and agency recruitment costs by 15 percent.
Rounding the corner on COVID-19
Of course, we’d be remiss in our exploration of tech into 2021 if we didn’t mention the technological marvel that will be the COVID-19 vaccine, and the tech transfer required to usher it to market in record time.
Tech here is also essential so that the healthcare industry can ensure the distribution of any vaccine is as transparent as it needs to be. For caregivers, who deliver in-home services to multiple clients a day, and for those they serve, technology can yield full transparency regarding who has been immunized against COVID-19. This keeps everyone safe, and reduces the stress of clients and caregivers by letting them know if each stakeholder has been vaccinated.
It’s likely we’ll see new innovative elements added to portals and dashboards, in addition to other shared software such as vaccine status indicators and special risk alerts being embedded in client and employee profiles. This is not only vital from a risk standpoint, but for the continuity of care for clients, and the all-important relationships and bonds they’ve formed with an agency’s caregivers.
Across home care, there is but one thing to do: embrace what technology has to offer, and pivot to whatever new realities are to come. COVID has demonstrated why it is so vastly important to be flexible and adaptable. It was the shock of a century. Still, far less dramatic shockwaves can be expected in this evolving industry, and all we can do is be as well-prepared as possible.