After weeks — in some cases, months — of closures due to the coronavirus, businesses across the U.S. began reopening in early June. But by July, many of those same businesses were forced to go in the opposite direction, thanks to a national resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
As shops, manufacturing plants and warehouses again attempt reopening, many are turning to traditionally consumer-facing home care providers for backup. To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Senior Helpers, BrightStar Care, 24 Hour Home Care and several other organizations have expanded their service lines to offer screening services for unexpected business partners.
It’s a revenue-diversification opportunity that wasn’t on the home care industry’s radar, but it’s one likely to stick around for a while, according to Senior Helpers CEO Peter Ross.
“It’s a service that you and I would never have dreamed of months ago, but it’s come to fruition,” Ross told Home Health Care News. “I wouldn’t say our numbers are better than last year because of that, but certainly it has shown our flexibility and our ability to help the community.”
With a corporate headquarters in Maryland, Senior Helpers has more than 320 home care offices in its global franchise network, which covers parts of Canada and Australia in addition to the United States.
Many of Senior Helpers’ franchise owners have struck contracts to do temperature checks and related COVID-19 screenings for local businesses, Ross said. To support them in that mission, the franchiser sent forehead thermometers to owners and created an electronic brochure to help with marketing.
“We’ve noticed a bunch of opportunities across our system,” he said. “We’ve been finding a lot of manufacturing plants, warehouses, different types of factories … weren’t taking the proper precautions to do what they needed to do.”
Illinois-based BrightStar Care — another home care franchise giant with more than 340 locations in the U.S. — has taken similar steps to help businesses safely reopen. On top of doing temperature checks, the franchiser has also connected different businesses to its personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution center.
“Outside of securing PPE inventory for BrightStar Care franchisees to ensure the safety of their caregivers and clients, we’ve also shared access to our PPE distribution center with fellow business owners,” CEO Shelly Sun told HHCN. “We want to do our part in helping communities re-open safely, so that’s why we felt it was important to share access to our PPE supplies.”
Moving into B2B
In 2019, home care agencies typically sourced the bulk of their revenue from hourly in-home care, followed by live-in care, geriatric care and alert monitoring, according to the 2020 Home Care Benchmarking Study from market research and education firm Home Care Pulse.
But many of the home care professionals who participated in the benchmarking study said they expect to generate revenue from new avenues brought on by health screenings tied to the public health emergency in 2020.
Another Home Care Pulse report highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 virus on home care had similar findings.
“In our impact report that we [previously] released, a little over 50% of businesses said that their service lines were going to adapt and change based on learnings in the middle of the pandemic versus post pandemic,” Home Care Pulse COO Todd Austin told HHCN. “This is definitely one example — screening.”
Besides helping warehouses and manufacturing plants safely reopen, Austin said he’s also heard agencies are doing screenings at airports and various retail locations.
“Home care has had a little bit of B2B exposure through providing staffing and shipping to some facilities, but it’s never been a true B2B [industry],” he noted. ‘And that’s what 2021 will likely bring. home care agencies won’t just focus on B2C, but also more B2B service lines to where they can go out and network with other businesses.”
Per its screening contracts with non-health care businesses, Senior Helpers sends in rotating teams of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or home health aides to cover different shifts of employees going into work. It typically does temperature checks, charging by the hour for those services.
“The last thing you want to do in a factory is let an employee who’s got COVID in with another couple hundred other people, with all of them working a few feet apart,” Ross said. “Look at what happened with all the different meatpacking plants in the country because of that issue.”
A July report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 23 states had COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, with 16,233 cases in 239 facilities. Those outbreaks included 86 COVID-19-related deaths.
Senior Helpers has also used its screening contracts as an organic way of touting its caregiving services, Ross said.
“People say, ‘Oh, well, tell me more about Senior Helpers.’ They might need help in the home for their mother, their uncle, their grandfather,” he said. “From our perspective, it’s just a great investment in the community to keep people safe. And it certainly helps to drive the brand.”
That organic information campaign may also inspire some people to branch out into home care, perhaps even opening their own Senior Helpers franchise location one day, Ross said. It’s something that could factor into the strong growth the franchiser has seen lately.
“We’ve been growing really well, to the tune of 25 to 30 new owners a year,” Ross said. “We’ve been bringing more people on at a higher pace during COVID.”
On its end, BrightStar Care’s locally owned-and-operated agencies have provided screening services to 270 customers, including multiple Fortune 500 companies, as of mid-July, according to Sun.
BrightStar Care screening services are typically conducted by either a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Services range from taking vitals and conducting screenings, to interviewing employees and documenting answers for HR files.
Rates are based on the number of hours that the RNs and LPNs serve the needs of the customer.
“We’ll continue offering screening services as long as they are needed. We are proud to be able to support our communities and businesses to ensure safe reopenings,” Sun said. “We see staffing services as a long-term opportunity since each of our agencies have RNs, LPNs and CNAs on staff and have a 20-year history of providing staffing services in addition to home care. We are able to deliver on the skilled and non-skilled services, and [we’re] ready to provide future staffing services from screening to administering vaccines.”
California-based 24 Hour Home Care officially launched “SAFER at work by 24 Hour Home Care” to help with reopenings. The independent and fast-growing home care company has a team of 3,000 on-staff screeners to not only assist businesses, but also government buildings, schools and more, its website says.
But home care providers aren’t the only ones helping businesses reopen safely. Some of the technology companies that partner with home care agencies or post-acute care providers have gotten into the screening game as well.
Dina — an AI-powered care coordination platform that works with some of the largest home health providers and health systems around — is one example.
As of mid-July, Dina has two non-health care company screening customers: one municipality and one food manufacturer, President and CEO Ashish Shah told HHCN in an email. Those customers represent roughly 1,200 users, he noted.
Dina is helping home care agencies with screenings, too. Overall, Dina has helped facilitate more than 1 million employee screenings.
“We’re seeing more non-medical home-based care agencies start to step up and ask for help,” Shah said. ‘They’re finding very creative ways to use technology to check in on their patients and staff. And we’re seeing more non-healthcare businesses adopt our screening products to do exactly what hospitals and health care providers are doing to take care of their caregivers and patients.”
Home care agencies interested in launching new safe reopening business lines should keep two key things in mind, Home Care Pulse’s Austin said.
Caregivers screening dozens or even hundreds of workers need to have necessary PPE. Additionally, agencies should consider assigning one employee to one site to limit their exposure and possible virus spread.
“The first thing agencies need to do is make sure that the individual doing the screening is isolated to that [one location], whether it’s consumer screening or employment screening,” Austin said. “That’s step No. 1.”