In order to create better efficiencies and unit economics for home care agencies, one must embrace technology that is both passive and active for census and caregiver staff, writes James Cohen of Nevvon.
It is widely known that the pressures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and caregiver shortage drive up costs for home care agencies. Other challenges that face home care agencies include:
- Fierce competition in attracting and retaining qualified formal caregivers,
- Continuously changing laws and regulations on certification of caregivers and compliance obligations
- Rapidly increasing demand for specialized care, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- The demand of the aging population wishing to age in place vastly outstripping the supply of certified caregiver staff
- Lower supply of caregivers and higher minimum wages lead to greater overtime pay
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Embrace Existing and New Technologies as Your Opportunity
In the old days, if a senior or a caregiver had an issue, their only option was often to pick up the phone and call someone to try and solve their issue. Now, there are various ways you can use technology to address problems before the senior even needs to call, and these can also help you reduce hospitalizations. These include existing and emerging technologies to allow seniors to communicate in times of distress through voice activation, wearables and even virtual reality. The emerging trend is now to have technologies assist the caregiver in providing better care as per the individualized plan of care for each individual. Supportive technology to the caregiver is incredibly helpful in attracting, growing and retaining quality certified caregiver staff.
Passive versus Active Home Care Technologies
One way to differentiate between technologies is by marking them as passive or active. The differentiating factor between the two technologies is through indicating whether the user is required to be trained for its usage. Active technologies require an individual to operate it, thus requiring instruction or training for its usage. Examples of passive technology include cameras or sensors that can monitor individuals without a user operating them. Alerts, reminders and medications dispensers are examples of active technologies.
Technologies that can Help Home Care Agencies
There are a growing number of Virtual Reality (VR) applications that caregivers use as an effective therapeutic tool for individuals with dementia. An example is to provide those with dementia the possibility of retrieving fond memories of people “visiting” or virtually visiting past much-loved locations.
VR applications also provide caregivers with the opportunity to better understand what their dementia patients go through on a daily basis. These unique forms of educating caregivers allow them to naturally become more understanding and empathetic towards the individuals suffering from dementia.
Web-based and mobile educational platforms have been sprouting geared at strengthening the caregiver skills of both the formal caregiver and the family caregiver. Mobile education has been developed as an assistive technology to allow the caregiver to have access anytime, anywhere.
The data collected through advanced technologies such as machine learning will potentially create better caregiving outcomes, such as the ability to match caregiver and senior in a more efficient manner.
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The Secret Sauce
The secret sauce lies in keeping it simple! Many may think technology innovations need to be complex, expensive and difficult to use. In truth the exact opposite is the reality. There are many low cost simple tools to assist the caregiver in delivering better care, which in return results in better health and economic outcomes. For families who are far away from their loved ones, caregiving can be very challenging. There are technological inexpensive tools that can be used to have access to the daily plan of care and its progress. In turn, these technologies provide peace of mind to the family member.
The promotion and encouragement of supportive technology innovation and education in conjunction with home care agencies will ultimately create maximum value across the health system. Home care can no longer be left to manage with a paper-based system or multiple stand alone technologies. With lower reimbursement rates, it is vital to integrate systems and find solutions that address the needs of both the caregivers and the individuals being care for.
Here’s How You Can Get Started
Nationwide, one of the biggest problems in the home care industry is the shortage of caregivers. Start thinking about your caregiver staff as your client and invest in them. There are inexpensive technological mobile education applications which will not only keep your caregivers in compliance, but also make them better caregivers, which of course, will create better health outcomes and ultimately pay for itself!
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