VOICES: Michael Gelman, President and Chief Operating Officer, CareConnect

This article is sponsored by CareConnect. In this Voices interview, Home Health Care News sits down with CareConnect President and COO Michael Gelman to get his take on the top staffing challenges during the pandemic, how the CareConnect platform is helping agencies resolve them, what lies ahead for the human capital management (HCM) company and what excites him about the year ahead for in-home care.

Home Health Care News: You are president of CareConnect. What were the most instructive stops along your way that you really draw from in this position?

Michael Gelman: I was a post-acute CFO and operator in the long-term care space back in early 2000 and I saw a real need for clinical software that was specific to that setting of care, so I took a shot and joined a small startup called SigmaCare, which was a post-acute EHR.

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I sat in almost every leadership team seat at that organization over the course of 11 to 12 years until we ultimately sold the business to MatrixCare about three years ago. I learned how to be a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) leader during that time. I was involved in every aspect of the company at some point, from sales to business development, product management and customer success, which wasn’t even called customer success back then — it was called “account management implementation.” I used to think of my experience there as the “SigmaCare internship.” It truly shaped how I think about running a technology organization.

When we sold that company, I decided to stay in post-acute and did some consulting for a while until I figured out my next big project. I was very interested in finding a disruptive technology play in the post-acute space because that was what I knew. When I met CareConnect CEO Bert Brodsky and the board, I knew I had found a home and I could take what I learned over the past 20 years and grow CareConnect into something great. I couldn’t be happier that I took the plunge with this group.

When did CareConnect come to be? What was the need the company was trying to serve?

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CareConnect was formed in late 2017 with the idea that there were still areas in the post-acute technology space that were underserved. As regulations increased, like the overtime exemption and home care final rule, plus a growing caregiver shortage, rising competition and consolidation, CareConnect rose to enable agencies to increase their internal staff and caregiver productivity.

As we released our first product, we were looking to build a world-class team, embrace a very progressive cloud and mobile-first mindset and be emphatic about leveraging the most advanced technologies to help us achieve our mission. That’s what CareConnect is: It’s the best-of-breed home care focused human capital management product.

We built CareConnect methodically to deliver a very high impact to our customers. We started with workforce optimization and digital communication. Unlike traditional agency management systems that want to check the box around matching capabilities, we put together an autonomous AI self-learning engine to optimize caregiver supply with the agency’s demand.

Since launching our workforce management solution as our entry into human capital management, we’ve continued to build out our HCM platform. In 2020 we released COVID-19 solutions, compliance/HR tools, e-learning and applicant tracking, always with the caregiver as the center focal point in our ecosystem. We have continuously built in feedback loops to enable the system to further engage, build trust and adapt.

As a company, we also want to be corporately responsible. On that note, we’re releasing a tool called Early Acce$$, which is free for caregivers. When a caregiver is using our system, we know when they’re working, when they can get paid, and what they’re going to get paid for.

We can provide microloans ahead of payroll to those caregivers, for example if their car breaks down or there’s a repair in the house they need to do before payday. In our app, they can press a button and based on what they’ve earned they can get that money transferred into their account within a day. There are no fees associated.

It’s important to note that we are different from agency management. When a lot of folks hear about us, their initial reaction is often, “Oh, scheduling and compliance? I don’t need that. My agency management system or my EHR does that already.” Those tools are feature sets in those systems, mimicking manual workflows. CareConnect innovates around these workflows to solve the problems and inefficiencies that agencies experience..

When agencies start to look at their metrics, like caseload ratios, overtime, staff turnover, and realize their current tools don’t address these issues and have reached the cap of effectiveness, that’s when we get the call and things go well from there. We’re not an agency management system or an EMR and we will never be — that’s not what we’re trying to do. We enable these systems to provide added value to their customers in areas they just can’t get to because roadmaps are so bogged down with regulations and payor requirements.

A lot has changed for home health over the course of the pandemic. How did CareConnect change its offerings to support agencies and their staff, and how will you continue to do that?

The need to connect people remotely and feel safe when in public was a great opportunity for us, to be honest. It really forced agencies to figure out how to embrace and use tech to overcome their in-person limitations. Adoption has really soared by agencies during this period of time in our core product offerings and we released some pretty cool COVID tools this year as well.

I remember listening to an interview with Mark Cuban at the beginning of the pandemic. He talked about how some companies will be in a good position, some companies won’t and the companies that are in a good position during the pandemic should help the ones that aren’t and the people who aren’t. It was inspiring to me and I thought we should be doing something to help.

I think it was March 15th when that guidance was released encouraging every caregiver to be screened before they can walk into anyone’s home. We created a tool for them to get a daily text and use our app on their phone to respond to the screening questions and allow their agencies to record the responses and intervene if needed. It was free for any agency that wanted it, and we still offer it for free today.

Now that the vaccine is coming out, we’re actually releasing a proof-of-vaccination tool where a caregiver can upload her or his vaccination certificate and an agency can monitor it.

How does CareConnect work together with its sister company, Mobile Health, to support mobile health care workers? How are you doing that to support them in the months ahead? Do you think that testing and screening will still be needed?

Our core mission is enabling agencies to engage, build trust and efficiently and dynamically adapt to their caregivers’ needs. Mobile Health has a large network of occupational health clinics in New York and over 2,700 network locations beyond. They provide services to over 150,000 caregivers every year and we have a unique opportunity to educate and deliver value there.

Specific to COVID, Mobile Health is one of the few places that’s delivered 100% of its vaccinations. Because they’ve done such a good job and they’ve learned how to do that effectively, they’re actually working with other occupational health clinics and pharmacies and distribution places around the country to put their best practices in place and help get as many vaccinations out as possible.

We’re in the final stages of integrating the vaccination info that they collect through their physician practice system into CareConnect along with other medical results already coming over, so that Mobile Health-treated caregivers won’t have to upload a proof of vaccination certificate for agencies to approve any longer.

I also think there is a tremendous opportunity to provide free vaccination safety awareness through our e-learning tool to caregivers who are unsure whether they should get vaccinated.

What do you see as the three greatest home health staffing challenges right now and how does CareConnect help agencies address them?

Agencies have been caught in the seesaw of demand for in-home caregivers during the pandemic. We can help those caregivers who do choose to get vaccinated provide proof to the agencies so that they can ultimately send them to homes that are concerned about having a caregiver who hasn’t been vaccinated.

I think the next biggest thing right now is just communicating with caregivers in an increasingly remote world. We provide tools that help caregivers engage with their agencies through multithreaded chat features — but also we eliminate the low-value tasks that the agency needs to do so there’s more time for those agencies to have more important conversations.

The last thing is staying compliant and optimized when volume is shrinking. For example, it’s easy in an in-person environment to make sure no one’s taking a class during a shift because they’re in the classroom together. We can make sure caregivers are blocked from taking their in-service classes when they’re on a shift or provide work equity to caregivers who are not getting enough hours by prioritizing them over others who are already in overtime.

What’s on the horizon for CareConnect in terms of new product development this year?

We’re constantly providing more human capital management tools and modifying them for home care. You’ll definitely see a lot more of those features. In Q1, we’re introducing the early access funding microloan tool I mentioned that gives caregivers early access to their paychecks. The next thing you’re going to see in Q1 is vaccination validation, synchronous learning tools and appointment booking for medical visits that don’t conflict with schedules. We now take scheduling information and approve medical procedures from the agency and help caregivers schedule pre-hire and annual medical appointments through the CareConnect app. Today, it’s a very slow, unreliable, manual process and we’re going to make it seamless.

We try not to plan a static roadmap out too far ahead. We want to stay nimble and provide solutions quickly for our partners and customers as the environment changes.

Caregiver support has been more important than ever during the pandemic. How is CareConnect providing the support and what resources is the platform making available to these caregivers?

Let’s start with our support structure. We actually have two dedicated support organizations. We have a B2B customer success structure that’s supporting the agencies and agency managers in the normal process of customer support. We also have a dedicated support organization specifically for caregivers. They can get to us through phone, chat, in-app texting or emails. We have multi-language support as well.

We also created a new department this year called Caregiver Engagement. It’s being led by a seasoned leadership team member, Howard Nevins, who has been both on the agency side and the technology side for a long time.

Their goal is to find ways we can help coordinate and sponsor events to help the caregiver community. It’s important to us to have the voices of the caregiver not only in our research but influencing everything we’re doing. It is also very important to our entire team that we continue to be great corporate citizens, and we see Caregiver Engagement as the vehicle to listen, and then respond with helpful programs to those caregivers who dedicate so much of their time helping others, and need some help from us.

What is your outlook for the in-home care industry in 2021?

I think 2021 is going to start with a 2020 hangover. We’ve seen that in every other area of the world right now. We’re still seeing the seesaw in demand. I think the underlying idea behind home care — that it’s better for the patient, better for the family, a better way to manage health care costs — isn’t going to change. As the middle-class economy bounces back and people feel safer interacting with each other, the demand for home care and state and federal funding will come back.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CareConnect’s suite of workforce management solutions makes it easy to acquire, onboard, place, train and retain caregivers, all easily integrating with your existing tools. Learn more at www.careconnectmobile.com.

The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more — shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact sales@agingmedia.com.

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