Life as we knew it has changed as a result of COVID-19. Now, home care agencies across the country are finding permanent ways to adapt to the challenges.
As the last nine months have shown us, COVID-19 has no plans to fade into the oblivion anytime soon. In fact, as the fall and winter seasons are approaching states are starting to anticipate a surge in the number of cases they’re seeing – with some already seeing spikes throughout the month of October.
While COVID-19 is still highly unpredictable, home care agencies across the country have changed their models of care to be more cautious about exposure in order to limit transmission as much as possible. With most home care clients being in the high-risk category, these precautions are a very necessary step.
Going into the pandemic, no one expected everyday life to change so aggressively. Now, the world as we once knew it has shifted, and home care is making permanent changes as a result.
Here are some of the ways that home care agencies have adapted to the challenges of COVID-19—in ways that many cases are long-term or even permanent.
Remote work opportunities for staff, owners, and administrators
Before the on-set of COVID-19, remote work was kept to a minimum throughout the home care industry. Many agencies hosted most of their staff, owners, and administrators in office.
Now, many staff members that aren’t working directly in the field, but rather from a desk, have transitioned to full-time, remote positions.
In the 2020 Home Care Benchmarking Study, we conducted a supplemental study highlighting the impacts of COVID-19 on the operations of home care businesses. The survey results show some of the innovations adopted as a result of the pandemic.
One thing to keep in mind is that agencies that operate remotely will need to work harder to foster unity and culture among their remote team. Being distant from your team can make it more challenging to build and uplift interaction and communication among employees. It takes extra work, especially when water-cooler talks and open-door policies may no longer be an option.
Virtual hiring processes – interviews & orientation
Many home care agencies have begun to pursue virtual interviews and orientation in place of in-person.
Contrary to popular belief, virtual interviews can still be a good way of deciding if someone will be a positive addition to your team. Some argue that virtual interviewing makes it more difficult to see your interviewee, their body language, and how they react to certain questions; however, there are many workarounds to this, and one major one includes using video conferencing programs. Virtual interviews don’t just have to be done over the telephone. You can now use platforms like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Google Meet for face-to-face interaction.
While it’s possible that some elements of the interpersonal interaction are tough to replicate over videoconferencing, many agency owners report other benefits that might serve as trade-offs: improved show-up rates, for example, as well as the ability to more easily connect caregivers and interviewers who may live in different areas.
The same goes for virtual orientations – and in many cases is almost no different than hosting an in-person orientation. Before hosting an online orientation, you should be slightly more prepared by sending out documents and information ahead of time via email. Then, as your training progresses, your new employees will be able to follow along with the required documents, information, and curriculum.
Adapting to a telehealth model of care
In a study conducted earlier this year by the Home Care Association of New York State, nearly half of the agencies surveyed said they have experienced patients or family members refusing entry of home care personnel.
In this manner, telehealth has become a necessity for home health agencies who wish to help those who are wary of having caregivers/nurses in their home. This also goes for patients who are already quarantined, sheltering in place, or social distancing.
Many agencies have adapted to an inclusive telehealth model that allows patients comfort knowing that there is no risk of exposure. Telehealth and virtual care allow a safe, technology-based care and communication method without the need for extensive precautions such as PPE, sanitization, and more.
Increased usage of technology
While using technology in home care isn’t a new idea, many agencies are starting to make some major changes in their approach.
After talking with Andrea Cohen, CEO at Houseworks, we learned that one step they’ve taken is to provide tablets to their caregivers to establish peace of mind during these seemingly crazy times. By using hand-held technology, caregivers can continuously be inputting client information while sharing real-time updates with family members who might not have the opportunity to be present. The caregivers become the eyes and ears and can easily translate that to the clients’ loved ones.
Communication across the industry has skyrocketed – due in part to the increased usage of technology – and client/caregiver satisfaction scores have risen as a result.
We’ve noticed that home care agencies have been adopting new (and old) technologies at a much faster rate. It’s becoming a necessity, and those who aren’t adapting are now in the minority.
Some of these technologies include:
HOME CARE AGENCY CASE STUDY
They attribute it directly to one specific tool.
Implementing online caregiver training
In lieu of training new caregivers on-site, many home care agencies have started using online caregiver training more extensively.
As your team is diving deeper into online caregiver training, here is a free resource to help your caregivers:
The free COVID-19 training can be used to educate your caregivers on how they can stay safe and keep those in their care safe as well – and it provides one hour of CE credit.
Additionally, if you’re stuck in a training contract that you don’t like, you may be eligible to get In the Know Caregiver Training for free until it ends. This training provides a blended learning approach that allows for online and in-person learning. Whether on the job or on the run, caregivers can access important, need-to-know-now resources right from their smartphone – with over 200 unique courses.
Increased demand for home care services
Since the start of the pandemic, many aspects of care have been forced to move in-home since many hospitals are focusing efforts on COVID-19 patients and have since cleared beds and units as a whole to meet the demand.
With the risk of infection, while going to a hospital or care facility, many patients have opted to have skilled professionals visit their home – especially with the number of outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Another reason for the increased demand for home care services is affordability. Since the start of COVID-19, we’ve seen quite a bit of economic turmoil. This has forced many to seek more affordable forms of care – which home care has often been recognized as.
Increased phone check-ins and better communication overall
Even before COVID-19 began, phone check-ins were likely a priority for your home care agency. Even more so now, they’re an integral part of how home care agencies are getting through COVID-19 successfully.
Make sure you’re staying on top of how you’re interacting with your caregivers. It’s a difficult time to be providing care, so check in on how they are doing, what needs they have, and what you can do to make their life a little easier.
It’s also important to do wellness check over the phone with both, caregivers and clients, to gauge how they’re feeling and if they might be running any symptoms. COVID-19 is a major risk and it’s the agency’s responsibility to limit transmission as much as possible – and wellness calls are a good place to start.
A look into the future
Change is never easy, especially when it affects the entirety of how you are running your business; however, by adapting to the areas above, you’ll likely see major growth during a time where that feels seemingly impossible.
COVID-19 doesn’t have to limit your agency. There are many things you can do to create the outcome you desire – whether that is getting more clients, supporting your caregivers more effectively, or simply limiting the spread of COVID-19.
It’s impossible to predict the future with complete certainty, but based on what we’ve heard from agency owners across the country, we suspect agencies to continue to embrace these things on a more permanent basis moving forward – especially as COVID-19 continues to stick around for the long haul.