For those of you not in the know, Salesforce is the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in the world. What is a CRM? Essentially, it is the tool that businesses use to manage their relationships with primarily clients, but also partners and any other stakeholder of their company.
As one of the pioneers of cloud computing, Salesforce continues to innovate on the model of how software as a service (SaaS) works. Today, the leading software vendors operate through native cloud access, paying a subscription fee to access the software that makes their business run.
This trend isn’t lost in home care as we see more progressive software vendors move towards the cloud. However, where our industry lacks is where Salesforce has once again led the pack.
Salesforce is categorized as a CRM, while in reality it's so much more. When Salesforce launched their App Store (coincidentally before Apple did), they not only made a statement as the best of breed CRM on the market, they also told the world that they were an eco-system: the platform where other best of breed solutions can tap into and share pertinent information.
Let me draw you a picture of how this works: imagine one of those green Lego boards we used to have as children. In the middle is the house that came with some basic instructions. However, this doesn’t make a full neighbourhood for our Lego community.
So we get another house and follow the attached instructions, placing it on the same green board. You keep building and attaching these houses, until you have your Lego neighbourhood.
Salesforce in this case is both that original Lego house and the green platform. The other buildings you have attached to that platform make up your unique neighbourhoods ultimately becoming an eco-system of software solutions.
Each eco-system is unique, just as each of our businesses are different. Each has unique qualities and needs, which may range in services to workflows. So if this is the case, why do home care providers still buy the same software with all the same functionality, when what you really want is the best fit for your individual needs?
Home care seems to be stuck in the world of a one-size-fits-all model, but the more progressive providers understand that their software needs to have the flexibility to grow with them. So what can home care learn from Salesforce?
Look for the Green Lego Board
As home care software vendors started to come out of the woodwork, the models were simple. Vendors would offer one type of billing and patients remained neatly in their own service line. If only the world was always that simple.
Today, these “legacy” vendors are struggling to evolve. Why? Because as funding models and health systems change, vendors are unable to adapt to the shifting landscape. Going back to spec is expensive, and so we are left to "Frankenstein" our heavily reliant IT solutions over and over again, until we have software that is based off technology built in the 1980s.
Do these solutions still work? Sure they do. But like dinosaurs became lizards, they are no longer as dominant in our industry as they used to be.
What you look for today is a software platform. Like Salesforce, home care software has been pigeon holed as Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
In reality, home care needs more than just a clinical documentation system, such as point of care, integrated telehealth, intuitive business intelligence, flexible forms, and communications portals. This is because our industry is complicated, and continues to become more complicated, especially as governments and payers aim to improve outcomes with less money.
As a home care provider, you need to find a software solution that has the ability to be open to other solutions. Too often we hear of vendors who claim to be everything to everyone.
It’s a nice thought, however unrealistic. Therefore, you need to find a solution that has the open APIs and integration tools that allow you to grow and evolve the way you see fit. You shouldn’t be held back by your software.
And no, we don’t mean you can choose which accounting package you want to export to. We mean a truly integrated platform that allows you to ensure that you provide the best possible care to your patients.
It might sound too tech heavy for you, but ask the questions: how easy is it to integrate with your other best of breed solutions? Can you take apart the solution if it doesn’t fit all your needs now? For example, can you use just the scheduling and choose to use the clinical documentation later? Can I put in the CRM of my choice? Or how integrated can I get with the data from my Remote Patient Monitoring solution? These are all important questions to ask.
Your Software Needs to Grow as You Grow
We mentioned before that your software needs to grow as you do. We don’t mean the payment model needs to grow, so the larger you are, the more you pay. That’s likely going to happen anyway.
No, your software needs to be flexible enough to adapt to not just what is happening today in home care, but even what is happening now. Who could have predicted the Affordable Care Act decades ago?
The shift globally to outcome-based payment, or even the increasing role patients have in their own care? Very few. We can't always foresee what is going to happen, even in the near future and this is why it's not unusual to see an agency switch their software solution every 3-5 years.
Once again, with a platform, you are able to plug in and plug out the solutions that fit your needs best. However, you need to always start with a base that provides as much as possible. When choosing a solution, identify what your needs are. At the same time, identify what your goals are. And if all goes to plan, will you be keeping this software or pulling it out in five years? Does your software fit into your strategic plans to be the best home care provider around?
The Silos Need to Go
More often than not, especially in acute settings, people disregard home care as an afterthought. Literally, it is the afterthought after the hospital or after the doctor sees you. The truth is that home care is likely the most cost efficient form of care, yet traditionally home care has remained in its little box, ignored and not taken into consideration.
The world is changing however. As more hospitals try to avoid their patients being readmitted, we see more home care agencies either being acquired by hospitals or hospitals being far more concerned about how effective the home agencies are that they refer patients to.
Also, as healthcare payments models change, the continuum of care (including acute, post-acute, primary and even pre-acute) has been brought into the spotlight. As a result, care that takes place in the home and community can no longer be ignored.
Through these significant changes, the continuum of care is also slowly learning that home care has become a massive gold mine for data, indicating the health and wellness of entire regions and demographic groups.
Just as the world has changed for home care, so must the software we use to run our businesses. The software that operates an agency also needs to eliminate its walls, just as home care has broken out of its silo. This allows for greater communication and increased access to important patient data across the continuum of care (HIPAA compliant of course). Gone are the days of not knowing where a patient is coming from or where they are going.
And what does this all mean for you?
It means as an agency, it's time to change your way of thinking. No longer are you being paid based on whether a service is completed, but rather whether outcomes are being improved. Ask yourself today, “does my software provide value for my clients?” and “will my software allow me to grow as the premier care provider in my community?”