The home care industry is one of the fastest-growing health care sectors in the United States as more and more patients realize the benefits of at-home care. In 2021, this trend is driven mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing number of chronic health issues in the population. As home care agencies evolve to meet this growing demand, many are turning to technology to help them outsource functions such as employee management and compliance.
Understanding Home Care
Home care refers to any professional support service that helps patients live safely in their own homes. These agencies aid those facing chronic health issues and disabilities, those recovering from a medical problem and anyone who needs help living independently. Home care can be more cost-effective for patients by reducing high costs from hospitals or other institutions. Along with the financial benefits, being cared for at home fosters independence and results in a higher quality of life.
The home care industry’s growth is driven by increased customer demand, the complexity of hospital care and health care reform. In a survey of health plan executives, 97% agreed that care at home is better for insurers and more cost-effective for their members. The industry demand is causing a shift in how home care agencies are run, particularly in managing noncore competencies.
How can agencies evolve with trends in the home care industry?
New medical advances and movement toward cost-effective treatment options in home care have promoted an average industry growth of 2.2% from 2015-2020. In 2021, this trend is expected to continue after the pandemic due to shifting patient care into a home environment. The market will continue to grow as patients look for accessible care from their residences.
Technology is one tool providers have to keep up with demand and deliver effective care. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology enables patient treatment while following social distancing guidelines. This includes newer advancements like virtual care models and remote monitoring.
Any agency that turns to online platforms to outsource nonessential functions should expect its chosen platform to help with the following tasks:
• Communication with referrals and clients.
• Keeping up with regulation requirements.
• Managing billing and payroll.
• Proper documentation.
• Caregiver scheduling.
To get the most out of your chosen online platform, be sure to use it to reduce the load on your top caregivers. A report from the market research firm Home Care Pulse found that the caregiver turnover rate peaked at 82% in 2018, and was down to 64% in 2019. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to slow turnover, which inspired agencies to increase pay, training opportunities and benefits for their employees.
Your chosen technology platform should help you successfully manage communication, onboarding, payroll, scheduling and other administrative functions associated with hiring and employee management. Ensuring that the business can accommodate the needs of clients and caregivers can help to retain top talent.
Compliance and fulfilling official regulations is an essential part of any health care organization because government organizations, insurance companies and consumers review billings and medical results. Any findings or discrepancies result in investigations, distrust and other penalties. Prosecuting health care fraud remains a priority for official organizations, causing regulations to become stricter each year to ensure compliance. In 2018, the Department of Justice announced that it charged 601 defendants, a more extensive enforcement action than previous years. In my experience, the top risk areas for compliance include:
• Missing eligibility criteria.
• Inaccurate documentation.
• Billing for unnecessary or duplicate services.
• Failing to communicate with patients and referral sources on time.
Any agency that partners with an online platform should use the technology to optimize its approach to regulatory issues. Your chosen platform should come with expertise in a wide range of compliance issues, such as laws, regulations and claims.
Finally, make sure you partner with a software platform that can help with outsourcing referrals and source leads, scheduling, billing, documentation, and financials. Your platform should increase your efficiency and ensure that your team can spend more time with patients and less time on administrative activities. The right platform will also help manage proper documentation in compliance with regulations.