Public Perception of In-Home Care Is ‘Through the Roof’

Most home health predictions for 2020 were marred by COVID-19. But now that the industry has dealt with a public health emergency for over eight months, insiders are trying their hand at 2021 — and hoping for less unpredictability this time around.

Next year will undoubtedly be shaped by COVID-19’s effects. Specifically, the virus will likely lead to less siloed care delivery while shifting the home health industry more toward technology.

Additionally, the year’s events will likely turn caregiving into a sought-after career and drive more care to the home overall, AlayaCare founder and CEO Adrian Schauer told Home Health Care News.

The concept of more care entering the home is something that providers in both the personal care and home health industries have been pushing for a while. Now, for better or for worse, COVID-19 has accelerated that migration.

That shift will create tailwinds for providers in 2021, but it could also create some challenges.

“Even most personal care providers have a level of clinical oversight,” Schauer said. “But I think the role of the nurse supervisor is poised to become twice as important as it was pre- pandemic.”

Montreal-based AlayaCare is a cloud-based home care technology provider that serves more than 3,000 agencies across the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home models have both become far more popular during the COVID-19 crisis. Each provides a new opportunity for home health agencies to help deliver care in the home, but providers also need to ramp up their capabilities if they’re intrigued by either concept.

“As higher acuity levels of care shift to the home, it makes it even more important to coordinate that care — home care — with the rest of the health care system,” Schauer said.

Breaking down silos

The coordination of care and less siloed care delivery will lead to a more holistic system of care management moving forward, Schauer believes.

Clinical care and personal care will continue to merge as Medicare Advantage (MA) becomes more popular and more plans begin offering home care as a benefit to address social determinants of health.

“It’s really the continuation of a trend with addressing social determinants of health and the payer evolution,” Schauer said.

In addition to MA plans, managed care organizations (MCOs) are assuming more risk-oriented contracts and also looking at social determinants of health to stratify risk, Schauer noted.

Technology-enabled to technology-centric

A study conducted by HHCN and AlayaCare found that 28% of providers weren’t using technology at all to deliver care.

Times are changing, though, and COVID-19 has forced a lot of agencies to get out of their comfort zone when it comes to advancing their technological capabilities.

“Every agency is at a different point in its technological evolution,” Schauer said. “But a lot of the [transformation] has been about digitizing existing workflows and eking out more efficiency from existing ways of doing business. That’s what I would call the technology-enabled phase.”

“Technology-centric is more about, okay, ‘How is the data and the system of intelligence around that data, really driving how I think about my patient population and what interventions I do?’” he added.

Additionally, contact between caregivers and employers has become almost totally virtual. If agencies want to conquer one of the toughest challenges in home-based care — staffing — they’ll need to be more mindful from a technology perspective moving forward.

Rise of caregiving

Millions of jobs will need to be filled in the home-based care world over the next 10 years due to demand. While staffing remains a challenge, caregiving jobs are on the map more than they have ever been due to COVID-19.

As the economy adjusts to a post-COVID-19 world that has left behind a lot of jobs that Americans formerly held, it presents an opportunity for agencies to turn the corner on their recruiting and retention efforts.

“The public appreciation for what professional caregivers do in our communities has gone through the roof thanks to COVID,” Schauer said. “The other aspect, particularly on the home health side, is that the economy has shed a lot of service jobs. … Unfortunately, the competition is not as fierce from many segments of the economy now. Not only do you have a profession that is much more respected and valued than it was before, but its relative attractiveness has gone up as well.”

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Stuck in the Stone Age: 30% of Home-Based Care Providers Aren’t Using Technology Tools

The COVID-19 emergency has underscored how valuable technology can be when it comes to caring for seniors in their homes.

But while home-based care providers are increasingly upping their use of various technology solutions to aid in their virtual care efforts, there is still a number of providers uncertain about the value-add such tools offer. 

That’s according to the recently released 2020 Home-Based Care Technology Survey and Report, produced by Alayacare and Home Health Care News. The report highlights the views of over 300 individuals polled about the home-based care industry. 

Montreal-based AlayaCare is a software platform and secure cloud-based system that includes clinical documentation tools, client-and-family portals, remote patient monitoring and mobile caregiver functionality.

One of the key findings of the survey: While virtual care services are popular, their utilization among providers isn’t universal. More than 70% of providers currently use some form of technology to provide care, but almost 30% aren’t using anything at all, mostly relying on paperwork, phones and fax machines.

When taking a closer look at types of technology providers are utilizing to deliver care, telephone and live video received the most responses. Specifically, 82% of providers polled said they use telephonic services to provide care, with 66% using live video and 47% using online portals.

Another 14% used some other form of technology entirely.

On their end, the majority of providers that are utilizing technology are offering video conferencing and virtual visits in order to deliver care. About three-quarters of providers are offering video conferencing and virtual visits, while 51% are offering remote patient monitoring (RPM) and 42% online client-and-family portals.

In terms of the impact integrating virtual solutions has on their business operations, the majority of providers see a clear value. In fact, 61% of survey respondents agreed that technology is a value-add to their business.

Still, these opinions aren’t the consensus among all of the providers surveyed.

One-third of providers had “no opinion,” and 5% didn’t agree that integrating virtual solutions would improve their business.

Of the providers that aren’t using any type of technology, 50% responded that the reason for this is there isn’t enough demand from clients. Another 37% said virtual care services aren’t reimbursed in the state they operate in, presenting financial challenges.

Additionally, 27% of providers said technology is too costly; 16% said technology is too complicated.

While caregiver churn remains a top industry challenge, many providers are combating the topic with a number of solutions. More than 60% of providers polled said they offer their caregivers career development programs and 24/7 connectivity to the company’s office via app or website.

Additionally, 24% of providers offer community-development programs offline. Another 16% have implemented daily pay or advances, according to the HHCN-Alayacare survey.

Finally, many providers are looking at artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can potentially impact their business.

In total, 63% of survey participants said they believe that AI would benefit their organization. AI includes tools aimed at optimization or machine-learning.

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