In the not-too-distant future, “the hospital” will turn into older adults’ living rooms. And non-medical home care providers will play a key role in that evolution away from brick-and-mortar facilities.
That’s according to Jeff Huber, CEO of Home Instead Senior Care, an Omaha, Nebraska-based home care franchise company with more than 1,200 independently owned and operated offices worldwide.
Huber recently sat down with Home Health Care News to share his thoughts on the future of in-home care, along with the workforce that’s needed to sustain its growth. During the conversation, the CEO also touched on the COVID-19 virus and the rollercoaster impact it has had on Home Instead Senior Care’s global business.
You can read the highlights from HHCN’s conversation with Huber below, edited for length and clarity.
HHCN: We last connected with Home Instead in March. Can you recap some of your organization’s highlights and challenges since then?
Huber: I’m really impressed with how our franchise owners, teams and overall network have risen to the challenges of the moment. They’ve been able to continue to provide services and care to our clients while maintaining their health and safety.
Here at our global headquarters, we set up a personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution center. We work with vendors and partners to source PPE, then send supplies out in a week’s time to our franchise owners. We have a partner pharmacy called Simple Meds, and they have really helped out in terms of producing hand sanitizer for our network. What we see at the local level is great creativity, resilience and problem-solving.
In terms of challenges, we want to continue to elevate the professionalism of personal caregiving and raise awareness.
Home Instead teamed up with Service Year Alliance to launch “Champions of Aging” — a service year program where young people spend a year working intensively on aging-related issues. How has that gone?
This is all about giving young people a deep understanding of the aging experience, so they can be transformative agents wherever their career might take them. We have a vision to change the face of aging; we recognize, to do that, we’re going to need to engage and create an entirely new generation of leaders. It’s probably never been more apparent how critically important that is.
We have a part-time opportunity for current undergraduate students. It’s a paid internship program. For graduates, there’s a one-year program where they will spend about 32 hours a week in service and another eight hours in formal education and leadership training.
In a recent op-ed, a New York state senator argued that investing in home care is a key way for reversing the nation’s overall economic downturn. Do you agree?
Home Care is certainly a growth industry. When I attend events like the World Economic Forum, a lot of the conversation is about the disruption of traditional job markets by innovation and automation. I think a great place for people whose jobs have been disrupted either by COVID-19 or by automation is home care.
One thing we know is that the traditional health care delivery system is really understaffed. Health systems and providers are under enormous pressure to produce outcomes. What we’ve proven in recent months is that the home is an effective place to care for vulnerable seniors. We can not only be an extension and increase the capacity of the health care delivery system, but we can be the centerpiece.
If you think about the future of the hospital, it looks a lot like your living room. I think home caregiving is definitely a growth opportunity for a future workforce. The home is really the only scalable place where we can care for people.
Business has been up and down for a lot of home care organizations. Overall, how has the Home Instead network fared over the past couple of quarters?
The year started off well. The 10th week of the year — I think, the first or second week of March — was a high-water mark for our North American operations, in terms of revenues and hours of care provided. Of course, in the second half of March, that quickly fell off and bottomed out. In June, we started seeing recovery.
July then replaced January as the best month in the company’s history.
Internationally, exactly the same story has played out. Our U.K. operations, for example, also had a record month in July.
We’ve heard about some home care providers launching new service lines. Is that something Home Instead is doing? If so, what kind of bottom-line impact have you seen around that?
We began integrating tablets into operations long before COVID-19 began. It has allowed us to dial up remote capabilities and dial down in-person visits when appropriate. In some cases, it has allowed us to offer a pure remote offering. For example, we have the ability to offer check-in services and medication reminders — things that can supplement and enhance the amount of personal care that we’re able to offer.
We’re still working out the economics of it, but it’s allowing us to do more with less and increase productivity. It’s been a positive development for us.
Congress is going back and forth on another stimulus package. Is there anything in particular you’d like to see in that to help the home care industry?
We have a bill that’s sponsored. We’d like to see that become part of the next stimulus package. The bill would allow health savings accounts to help pay for our services. The other thing would be to offer liability protection for employers who are following CDC guidelines.
What have you done to recruit and retain workers during this time?
One thing that we have done across the board is make available a 24/7 support line for caregivers. Our caregivers can confidentiality call up a toll-free number and have immediate access to trained counselors to help cope with whatever physical, mental or emotional issues they might be experiencing. That has been a tremendous boost for our caregiver workforce, and it has helped to support them through such unprecedented times. In the three to four months that we’ve instituted that, we’ve had, on average, 600 unique users per month. It’s really been well-received.
We’ve also been able to quickly pivot our operations to do recruitment and training remotely.
Can you talk about the company’s growth plans moving forward?
It’s a growth industry, so we’re really looking to expand service offerings. We’re looking beyond just our hourly care to find new ways to serve a growing senior population with a variety of products and services.
We’re going to continue to expand our international operations. We’re going to give our local offices new tools to become more efficient … through the use of technology, integrated systems, data and analytics.