Home Health Providers Shift to Mobile Tech, ‘Upskilling’ Tools for Staffing Success

Home health aides are more apt to apply for open positions using a smartphone instead of browser-based resources, such as Monster or Indeed, that many agencies typically use for recruiting. Similarly, aides are more likely to stay at a home health agency when that agency invests in technology-based solutions focused on “upskilling.”

Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm Village Capital highlighted these and other tech trends in a recent report following up on its investment-readiness program with Kaiser Permanente. With offices across the globe, Village Capital finds, trains and invests in early-stage ventures solving major global problems in agriculture, education, energy, finance and health.

Village Capital’s portfolio of U.S. health-tech startups include 1DocWay, TruClinic, Constant Therapy, LivWell Health and a handful of other companies.

The Village Capital report touched on remote patient monitoring, point-of-care diagnostics and financial planning, among several other topics. Home health providers will likely find the report’s insights into professional caregiver recruitment and retention as the most relevant information.

“It’s paying attention to the small things that have a big impact on how you can recruit well,” Allyson Plosko, sector manager of health at Village Capital, told Home Health Care News. “And leveraging mobile to free up home health aides by upskilling them and showing them a career path is an opportunity to retain.”

Although home health aide is the third-fastest-growing job in the country, many agencies still struggle with astronomical turnover rates. In some instances, home health agencies have aide turnover rates that are more than double turnover levels for registered nurses, past industry research has found.

Recruiting home health aides

Despite emerging technologies, many home health agencies remain attached to Monster, Indeed and other browser-based tools. But leaning on those resources too heavily leaves a large swatch of the home health aide workforce untapped, as prospective aides frequently don’t have access to laptop or desktop computers due to their lower income levels, according to Village Capital.

Home health aides earned a median salary of $23,130 in 2017, or about $11.12 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly one-quarter of home health aides live below the federal poverty line.

Smartphone adoption among low-income Americans is at an all-time high, marks research shows. Not surprisingly, low-income Americans are nearly twice as likely to rely on smartphones to access job information and applications compared to those with higher incomes.

Overall, about 95% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. More than three out of every four Americans own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.

“They’re accessing content in a different way than maybe higher-income individuals would,” Plosko said. “This idea of having, for instance, a job application that’s browser-based, it doesn’t make a lot of sense because of how these individuals actually access and fill out job applications.”

A well-oiled recruiting strategy should take advantage of multiple tools, Sonya Hinds, chief administrative officer for Sunrise, Florida-based Interim HealthCare, told HHCN. Part of Caring Brands International, Interim is a franchisor of home care, hospice and health care staffing, with more than 530 franchise locations in seven countries.

“To successfully compete for hard-to-fill positions, including home health aides, a diverse recruitment strategy should be implemented that starts with identifying where the candidates you’re looking to attract live and breathe,” Hinds said. “The clear majority of Americans own a cellphone [or] smartphone of some kind. Mobile application gives the candidate a much more efficient process.”

When longer applications that take place in-office are needed as part of the recruiting process, a dedicated kiosk, such as a laptop or iPad, is something home health agencies should also consider, Hinds said. Besides being helpful for candidates, a dedicated kiosk gives recruiters a chance to conduct pre-screens, interviews and other necessary paperwork in a timely manner.

Social media also plays an important role, she said.

“Employers and recruiters should have a clearly defined social media strategy to engage both candidates and existing staff,” Hinds said. “Social media is a great way to promote employment opportunities, show the company’s culture through pictures, videos, community involvement activities and testimonials.”

Next-gen tech versus old-school methods

In addition to recruiting practices, Village Capital’s report also delved into tech-based solutions for retaining workers, including technology’s ability to aid in “upskilling,” or improving workers’ skill sets.

Solutions include CareAcademy, the official training partner of nationwide online caregiving platform CareLinx. CareAcedemy allows CareLinx to improve onboarding and retention through better training of their new hires, according to Village Capital. IPCed and Relias are other solutions. IPCed was formerly owned by OnCourse Learning, now a part of Relias. Relias is owned by Bertelsmann.

ReciproCare, an online B2B marketplace that assists senior care providers in filling open positions and helps caregivers find jobs, is one example of an early-stage tech startup attempting to disrupt the recruiting process, according to Village Capital. KindlyCare, a startup that pairs caregivers with individuals in search of care, managing tax and financial arrangements in the process, is another example.

But providers should not lose sight of more tried-and-true approaches to recruitment and retention, emphasized Candy Lindsay, vice president of talent acquisition for Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys (Nasdaq: AMED). Amedisys, one of the largest home health providers in the industry, has about 18,400 employees that work across 34 states and D.C.

“At Amedisys, we have been able to find qualified [home health aides] on Indeed,” Lindsay told HHCN. “Granted, their resumes are often not up to date, and we do many times end up walking them through the application process over the phone, but we have been successful recruiting them through our applicant tracking system.”

The publicly traded company has also had good recruiting fortune through other more traditional, old-school methods as well, including email blasts, career fairs and local job-based advertising.

“Quite a few [home health aide] candidates still ‘walk in’ to local care centers and get referred to our recruiting team that way,” Lindsay added.

Still, trends point to a new normal on the way.

“Technology is driving every aspect of our lives,” Interim’s Hinds said. “We can find employment opportunities with three clicks of a mouse, we shop more online than we do in retail stores, we make restaurant choices based on stars ratings and finalize our vacation choices based on online reviews. In order to remain competitive, employers should look at how they personally utilize basic technology on a daily basis and determine what type of investments in their infrastructure and integrated systems are needed.”

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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