Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The last post for our Ask the Experts blog series involves one of our favorite topics: the agency-caregiver relationship. If this is something that is important to your home healthcare agency, then you will enjoy what our panel experts shared in this segment.

There was a lot of information shared in our webinar, so we will be breaking the content up into a series of blog posts. You can read each individual blog post or simply download the full pdf to receive it all in a single document to view and share with colleagues. Fill out the form below to receive the full pdf version of our Ask the Expert blog series.

Where does CareConnect see technology impacting the relationship between employee and employer?

Technology, and healthcare in particular, has evolved over the years and we always start with the same mantra that we want to be technologists- technology, and healthcare should be as helpful as possible. Historically, technology was used to replicate paper processes to get data into a centralized place, but it has evolved over time.

We now have the resources and technology in a more scaled way to be able to provide insights, data mine, and use artificial intelligence to analyze how trends and people have behaved in the past. This information can be used to help in replicating workflows, and to find insight in minimizing the types of low value activity in healthcare, particularly in home care. Also, this information can provide more time and resources to enhance the user experience (coordinator, agency ownership, caregiver, etc.) for conducting high value engagements.

As agencies move towards becoming more remote, we have new tools that helps mitigate the separation and increase engagement between caregivers and agencies. Other agencies are focused on different types of outcomes. Technology provides insight on tactics and trends in the behavior of each user to help eliminate repetitive work and increase efficiency.

The Shift Booking module allows schedulers to match the right caregiver with each patient in less time. In addition to saving time, this module allows caregivers to have more consistency with their shifts. With more consistency in shifts, the patient outcome is better in the long run. Technology should enable clinicians and providers to work hard on the things that matter and remove noise from the things that do not.

We have a chat function that is helpful for broadcast and individual messaging. We are considering adding some video functions or telephony solutions, but nothing has been decided upon. An added video function would allow you to have a more meaningful conversation with a caregiver using the app on their smartphone. A face-to-face conversation may be better in some instances since it’s hard to tell how someone is feeling through a chat. In a video chat, you can see if a person has a frown or smile on their face, which can really make a difference in the relationship and value of care.

In an era when staff shortage and recruiting and retention are critical to agencies across the country, can you talk about job enjoyment, patient satisfaction, and employee satisfaction and retention?

The home health aide is the eyes and ears of the industry. They are the ones in the home every day and are most closely connected to the patient. They have a level of connection with the patient and information that a visiting nurse does not get from their short visits. In some cases, they are literally living in a person’s home and have a front row seat into their life. The value of a home health aide cannot be underestimated. It has been a struggle amongst the discipline to recognize a home health aide as an integral part of the care team.

CareConnect provides home health aides with ways to report changes and patient conditions in real time and information that allows them to be able to see patients in an emergency. With these tools, they can feel connected to the agency, which helps highlight that they are an important part in the healthcare delivery system. Having these types of technological tools, we strengthen their connection to the agency. There is no question that this deeper connection gives them a sense of belonging and value being part of a large organization.

Bridging the gap between home health aides and their agencies is the greatest use of technology. Home health aides are largely unsupervised, and they are very rarely in a home without connection to the agency. Now, technology fills the gaps and provides them a sense of connection and community. We believe that is what keeps a caregiver attached to an agency more than anything, not salary or benefits, but how successful they are going to be at their job.

Does CareConnect enable communication between caregivers and family members, as well as from caregivers back to the office?

CareConnect does connect caregivers back to the office. However, we are always trying to figure out ways to enhance the communication. For example, Sandata manages the client side, and we manage the workforce side. So, how do we come together to create a solution that would make sense for everyone? Patient engagement and family engagement is a big topic and in post-acute care, it is something we always have our minds on. We do not do it today, but a patient portal is something that I have been thinking about for 10 years now and is something we would probably want to collaborate with Sandata on.

Even if a vaccine comes out, and we flatten the curve of COVID, do you still see the need for these online tools?

Back in the day before I joined Sandata, we were continuously hammering the phones just to fill a simple shift. These tools allow the process to be automated and more efficient now, which increases the client to scheduler ratio. If an agency can grow within the existing infrastructure or lower internal headcount, it is a bottom-line benefit to the overall operation. This works for both office staff and caregivers in the field. The eLearning component helps us differentiate ourselves and engage with employees, bridging that gap. It is more of a “secret sauce” to maintain your caregiver population, and absolutely seeing a need for these goals in the long term.

Other than public and private payers, some individuals pay themselves, oftentimes the family, and they want to be kept in the loop.

If the curve is flattened, there will be a different way to look at things. Daily screenings have been recognized as a best practice, so I think those are here to stay. We have created a lot of efficiencies built into these technologies that has not been fully realized in terms of cost penalties when we have aids working overtime. The CareConnect app can identify the cost for an agency to send an aid to work if they are working more than 40 hours. Unless we get back to pre-COVID levels, I do not think anyone would say not to create efficiencies or question how we can operate cleaner, leaner and become more effective.

Do you have a recommendation for a small or mid-sized agency to help them cope with the COVID screening process and scale it down to their level for aids?

The COVID screening process can be daunting for agencies of any size. Some smaller agencies use an attendance call function that requires staff members to manually call each caregiver to take attendance and confirm they do not have any symptoms. This process is risky because the caregiver may already be inside of a client’s home by the time they receive their attendance screening phone call. The information needs to be gathered in the short window between when the caregiver wakes up and when they head to their first patient’s home. I think there’s room for this type of outreach to be done, something technologically based that could distribute something like an email blast to keep it efficient and keep the cost down.

What is the affordability for the SafeCare platform?

SafeCare, CareConnect’s COVID screening tool, is free for all users. The screener was developed based on a need in the industry, helping agencies and caregivers stay safe. CareConnect wants people to use it. If a caregiver does not have the CareConnect app on their smartphone, they can still use the COVID screener by receiving a text message. An agency can provide a list of people to contact, including their phone numbers and email addresses. The list will be used to send out daily text messages allowing the recipients to utilize the SafeCare COVID screener.

Can you track COVID testing?

Yes, it is part of the HR module in CareConnect. However, there is an additional fee for this feature. In New York, we work with Mobile Health and the fee comes directly from that occupational health clinic. If they perform the COVID tests for you and we are integrated with them, we will receive the results in CareConnect’s HR module. Once the results are posted, a history of someone’s test results will be available. This feature is scalable and affordable at any level, whether an agency has 500 or 7,000 caregivers. The fee structure is scaled based on the number of clients or the number of caregivers.

Ask the Experts Panel:

Tim Rowan, our moderator, is a nationally known home health care consultant and publisher of Homecare Technology, the Rowan Report, an industry premier technology newsletter since 1999. He has been in the home healthcare space since 1993 and has been teaching home care agencies how to manage their online reputation since 2015.

Jim Rolla is the Senior Vice President at Partners in Care, which is within the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Jim has 27 years of progressive experience in licensed home health care services. He has many talents that have led to his success including business development, operations, profitability, regulatory compliances, and multi-site or multi-state location management.

Mike Gelman is the President and Chief Operation Officer at CareConnect. He has 20 years of experience in senior roles at institutionally backed healthcare and technology companies. His expertise in financial and corporate development have allowed him to be successful in several roles, which include operation executive positions. Mike’s wealth of experience helps CareConnect to provide services to you, the home care provider.

Steve Pellito is the Senior Vice President of Sales at Sandata Technologies and has 20 years of experience in healthcare, sales, management, and business development. Currently, Steve leads the provider sales and marketing team at Sandata and is responsible for the development and execution of the national go to market strategy.