Home-based care agencies have had to lean on technology during the COVID-19 crisis, whether they liked it or not.
In some cases, that meant conducting remote visits, even if they weren’t reimbursable under Medicare rules. In other cases, it meant having staff work from home in this new, long-term COVID-19 reality.
But telehealth platforms are not the only sort of technology that home-based care providers have benefited from during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, providers have been leveraging online tools to curb one of the biggest challenges in the industry before the pandemic even existed: staffing.
“We cannot keep thinking about staffing in traditional ways and expect that, as an industry, we’ll see something different,” John Olajide, the president and CEO of Axxess, told Home Health Care News.
Dallas-based Axxess is a home health technology company that develops cloud-based software solutions for providers. Olajide was recently elected to the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) board of directors, with his stated goal being to further aid providers with their transitions toward technological savviness.
Care challenges related to COVID-19 are the reason that 37% of surveyed agencies believe their revenue is down in 2020, according to a joint Axxess-Home Health Care News report. Over 30% of those surveyed agencies point directly to COVID-19-related staffing challenges as the cause of revenue loss.
Staffing challenges can often be mitigated by technology, however.
On Axxess’ end, it’s Axxess CARE solution finds qualified, vetted workers in areas where agencies have plenty of referrals, but not enough workers. Launched in 2017, Axxess CARE helps agencies post case times and locations on the platform, allowing clinicians to view and sign up for jobs they’re able to take.
After the job is completed, clinicians then receive payment through the CARE tool.
Generally, it’s a way for agencies to turn down fewer referrals while simultaneously finding the right aides looking for work, according to Olajide, who noted the tool has gained popularity during the ongoing public health crisis. Even if providers have sufficient full-time staff, Axxess CARE can help them fill in the blanks for cases they cannot manage in-house.
“It’s really a staffing and scheduling solution, where organizations can extend their ability to reach people and get additional staff to see their patients,” Olajide said.
Illinois-based Serenity Home Health, for instance, was able to grow its business and scale operations by using technology to help with staffing. Specifically, it used the tool to expand its footprint to 20 new zip codes in just six months.
Over 34,000 in-home care visits have been arranged through Axxess CARE thus far, according to Axxess.
Moving forward, staffing will no doubt continue to be a pain point for a great deal of agencies across the U.S. But home care operators need to understand that the situation won’t get better magically, according to Olajide.
Right now, where there are plenty of people looking for more work and a slew of agencies in every region looking to staff cases, there should be a way to bridge the gap.
“The marketplace just needed to be optimized,” Olajide said. “And COVID-19 was chaotic enough of a situation to make people really recognize that within a situation like this, you need to leverage technology a lot — and more effectively — to optimize this marketplace and match caregivers with the right skills, at the right times, with patients that need care.”
Agencies continuing with the same solutions to manage a staffing problem that never goes away is just like traditional taxi companies wondering why they’re getting less riders with an inferior product, he noted.
The staffing issue will be especially important when winter rears its head. Finding more capable workers will be necessary as flu cases coincide with a likely surge in COVID-19 cases, which will put a lot of pressure and strain on agencies and their staff.
“The data we’re looking at, it shows us that this is a marketplace-optimization challenge where we can leverage technology to really address both the demand and supply sides of the issue,” Olajide said.