Most Home Care Agencies Plan to Continue Remote Onboarding, Work Arrangements Post-COVID-19

For months now, home care experts have echoed the same prediction: COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the industry. 

Now, new data is backing up those anecdotal claims, painting a picture of what the nonmedical home care landscape of the future will look like. It’s not quite the Jetsons, but it’s headed that direction.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit the U.S. earlier this year, home care providers were forced to pivot. They transitioned office-based staff to working from home, implemented new virtual training and care solutions, and donned personal protective equipment, in some cases, for the first time ever.

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While the innovations were adopted under less-than-ideal circumstances, their benefits look to be long-lasting, according to new survey data from Home Care Pulse, an Idaho-based market research and education firm.

“Remote work [and training] is going to be huge,” Home Care Pulse CEO Erik Madsen told Home Health Care News. “There’s some really interesting things to watch from an innovation perspective over the next year.”

Home Care Pulse’s latest Home Care Benchmarking Study suggests the same. The report details the state of home care in 2019, as well as the impact the coronavirus has had on the industry this year. The results were released Tuesday.

Of nearly 900 home care organizations that participated in the study, 63% said they intend to continue newly adopted virtual hiring interview practices even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. Before COVID-19, only 5% of respondents were conducting virtual interviews.

Online training, on the other hand, was more common pre-COVID-19, with more than 34% of participants taking advantage of virtual training. Post-coronavirus, that figure will exceed 75%, according to the benchmarking study.

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Even before the survey results were in, Madsen saw the writing on the wall, thanks to a well-timed transaction. Back in February, Home Care Pulse merged with In The Know Caregiver Training, which provides e-learning solutions for front-line home care workers nationwide.

“Our training platform exploded with caregivers going on and getting all their certification training during COVID-19,” he said. “I think it’s just a new way of looking at how to educate and how to arm these caregivers with the skills they need.”

While caregiver training is not required in every state — only 30 have some form of licensure requirements for home care agencies — some believe COVID-19 could change that.

Regardless, Madsen says offering a blended approach, with both in-person and virtual training, is best practice to prepare caregivers for the job.

Plus, agencies that do it have revenues about 21% higher on average than those who don’t.

Another new innovation home care agencies plan to keep around post-coronavirus: remote work options for both office staff and caregivers.

Of those surveyed, 51% said they intend to keep new remote work options for staff — such as billing personnel and other office workers — post-COVID-19. Before, only 9.6% allowed remote work.

“I would not be investing in social office space,” Madsen said. “I think there’s going to be a surplus of that, as people figure out that they can work as effectively remotely as they can in an office.”

If home care agencies fully embrace the work-from-home model, they could improve their otherwise thin margins by saving on rent.

On top of that, the study suggests another 48.6% and 24.6% will keep up newly implemented non-traditional visit formats and telehealth, respectively, which could mean more work-from-home opportunities for caregivers. 

Perhaps the most promising finding from the benchmarking study suggests that caregivers could be easier to keep in 2020. Historically, caregiver turnover has been astronomical, hitting a high of 82% in 2018.

But in 2019, turnover plummeted to 64.3%, the data suggests.

From record unemployment lows in 2019 to record highs amid COVID-19 prompting less job hopping, Madsen anticipates that number will only continue to tumble, at least in the short term.

“I think you’re going to see caregiver turnover actually trend downward, at least for the next 18 months,” he said.

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