The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Kunu Kaushal, founder and CEO of Senior Solutions Home Care, has been named a 2020 Future Leader by Home Health Care News parent company Aging Media Network. Kaushal is also the founder and advocate of the Independent Home Care Alliance.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action and an advocate for seniors.
Kaushal sat down with HHCN to talk about his career trajectory and the ways the home-based care industry is evolving due to market trends, regulatory forces and the COVID-19 pandemic.
HHCN: To start, can you just tell me a little bit about your current organizations and roles? You hold a couple of different positions, I believe.
Kaushal: That’s right. I’m the founder and CEO of Senior Solutions Home Care. That journey started about 10 years ago, when I transitioned away from home health and hospice, away from the operations side and working for other organizations. I dabbled a bit in private-duty nursing, but moved into home care. Over the past decade, I have been surrounded by just powerhouse leaders in the industry.
I’ve learned a lot from those leaders, and we’ve gotten really engaged throughout the industry. That means engaging in national associations and state-level associations, interfacing with other home care owners around the country. Over the last few years, I think other companies, other leaders have started looking to us for level-setting. They see Senior Solutions Home Care as a standard and example of best practices. It’s an honor for us to do that. It’s really all about our innovation, and our desire to just do home care better, faster and more efficiently — at scale.
What drew you to home care in the first place?
It’s honestly a family-affair-type thing. My father has been an entrepreneur. He’s a physician first and foremost, but he has also been an entrepreneur in the health care space for a long time. When I was still in grade school, he was leading health care companies that were focused on geriatrics in different capacities, including home health, hospice, assisted living, outpatient rehab — all of that.
My mother’s a critical care nurse. To this day, she owns and operates a very boutique assisted living facility. I kind of joke that, growing up, I’ve had 30 or 40 grandparents at any given time. At our dinnertime conversations — you know, other people would laugh at this — we were talking about families and their dynamics. We were talking about the challenges in health care and in aging.
A little more than a decade ago, I was progressing in my career. But then the need for aging and solutions around that hit our own family. Like a lot of stories, my grandparents are the genesis for need. My father is leading these health care organizations that do home health, hospice and all these things. My mother is running an assisted living community. And even with both of them, my own grandparents talked about wanting to stay at home. They needed more than just the things that Medicare pays for. They needed more than a facility solution. Again, I was doing private-duty nursing, working for another organization. I thought, “Well, how hard can this be? We’re talking about ‘non-skilled’ staff and basically just scheduling them, right?” Little did I know about the comfort level and sophistication of home care, which ended up being a draw for our own family.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think it depends on who you ask. If you were asking me, I would say something like I’m a blend of Tony Robbins and General MacArthur. There’s a need for interpersonal leadership and treating people how they expect to be treated. There’s a need to understand the empathy and compassion in this industry. But then on the other side — I guess the General MacArthur side — it takes structure to build systems. It takes a kind of gung ho attitude of “we can do it.” I’m in charge of getting the troops together, per se, to do something really difficult, which is getting through the challenges that health care produces constantly, especially in the personal care side of the world. What I find is our challenges often about labor, about caregiver shortages.
Sometimes it can feel like a hill that is too hard to climb. We’ll always have turnover. There will always be more people who need care. We have to provide that care while making sure each client, each individual is treated with a personality.
There are times where I’m deeply empathetic and trying to understand how people tick. And then, you know, on another day, it’s just, “Here are the 10 tasks we’ve got to do. What resources do we need?”
What’s your biggest lesson learned since coming into home care?
I would say the biggest lesson is that change is necessary.
I think the way that a lot of business people approach business, in general, is to create or find a system, then “rinse and repeat.” With home care, there are constantly changing federal laws. There’s constantly changing local competition. There’s constantly changing consumer demands and expectations. The workforce is constantly changing. I think that’s been my greatest lesson — not to be scared of change. I think our organization’s different departments have done their best work when they’ve embraced change.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of home-based care, what would that be?
As somebody who loves systems and thinking through efficiency, who’s always thinking about moving forward at scale, the biggest thing is for our technology partners to be able to talk to each other. That means not just scheduling but the entire landscape of technology partners: different service offerings, payroll vendors, background check companies, customer relationship management, sales stuff. I think this is one of the most dangerous things in home care: Anytime information gets siloed, it creates an immense amount of unproductivity. It leads to spending money in the wrong places. I think that the big change area is going to be interoperability.
What do you see being different about home care looking ahead to 2021 or even after?
I think the biggest thing going forward is to embrace technology. In the home itself, telehealth made a big push during COVID-19. The home health companies, hospice agencies and others have been really excited about it. When you think about the longer relationship cycle — meaning not episodic care — most home care companies are building relationships with clients for 18 to 20 months, potentially. We need to be in the home for hours and hours of time when the workforce is shrinking. Bringing technology into the space is going to be a big part of our future. I don’t necessarily mean delivering care through an app. It’s knowing that we’ve got to make our visits count. The time in which we’re spending with a client needs to be very productive. There’s a time for hands-on care and truly helping clients physically. But I think some of the companionship and emotional-support type dynamics will become a bit more virtual. That will extend the ability of our folks to really engage with our clients over time. Technology will also help us fit into the bigger ecosystem of health care providers, where one minute we’re talking to a client’s doctor, then another minute we’re talking to a home health nurse.
If you had to pick one word, how would you describe the future of home-based care?
The one word would be “opportunity.”
There’s an opportunity to change the way that people are aging. It’s an opportunity for providers. It’s an opportunity for the actual recipients of care. There’s opportunity abound.
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit the Future Leaders homepage.