The old adage “there is strength in numbers” has stood the test of time because it’s largely true.
To remain competitive and gain an edge over competitors, home care operators must form strategic partnerships with a wide variety of organizations. Common examples include collaborations with transportation companies like Uber (NYSE: UBER) and Lyft (Nasdaq: LYFT), in addition to partnerships with experts in the training and technology realms.
To get a better understanding of what partnership opportunities home care providers are seeking, Home Health Care News asked seven C-suite executives: “What’s the most important partnership for a non-medical home care company to have in 2021 — and why?”
Here’s what they had to say. HHCN lightly edited responses for length and clarity.
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There are significant shifts in the home care market that focus on treating high-acuity patients. This is demonstrated by the prevalence of new hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home models. We know that patients prefer to heal and age in the home, and I foresee even more acute care taking place within the home in the near future.
With these new shifts, it is imperative for home care providers to shift their focus as well. Home care providers need to align themselves and partner with the case managers of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to assist in the facilitation of ancillary services within the home.
While acute care is moving to the home model, those visits by physicians, nurses, therapists and other licensed health care professionals will continue to be delivered on an intermittent schedule. This leaves the acute care patient vulnerable during those times between skilled visits. Home care can fill that void of time and assist the patient with their ADL needs, such as bathing, dressing, meal prep, toileting, transfer and a host of other assistive services.
In doing so, the home care providers will be asked to deliver excellent patient outcomes with greater value, and if executed well, the ADL services provided will be an essential component in achieving overall quality outcomes in concert with the acute service providers. As a result of such efforts, home care providers will have the opportunity to become vital partners to the acute care service providers.
— Jake Brown, president and CEO of Always Best Care
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BrightStar Care has a strong national accounts platform to access opportunities beyond the non-medical home care space. This area of our business grew 30% last year, with opportunities ranging from nurse assessments to nursing support for COVID-19 vaccination and clinical trials.
Beyond these commercial partnerships, there are three critical areas where partnerships will be critical in the next few years.
First, as the home is becoming the preferred setting of care, and personal care is becoming recognized as part of the holistic care needed, non-medical companies need to partner with other post-acute care organizations, health systems and third-party program providers to deliver bundled services paid for through value-based purchasing arrangements. BrightStar Care has developed partnerships with leading national home health and hospice provider Amedisys, hospital-at-home leader Medically Home and several others.
Second, advocacy and government relations partnerships with organizations like the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA), International Franchise Association (IFA) and Moving Health Home are essential to influence federal policy, as well as advocate at the state level to address workforce development and access to care issues.
Third, partnerships for technology and data solutions will be critical. While BrightStar Care invests in its own proprietary technology solutions for running our back office and point of care, we have partnerships with care coordination platforms to integrate the referral process with health systems. We also have engaged partners to unlock our data assets and conduct outcomes research.
— Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Group Holdings Inc.
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The home has become the new venue for receiving both medical and non-medical assistance. As such, the most important partnership for a non-medical home care provider to have in 2021 is a strategic partnership or alliance that helps to expand the care continuum for a client. These partnerships can include palliative, hospice, home health, and even in-home urgent or complex medical care.
Earlier this year, for example, Synergy HomeCare announced a strategic partnership with Compassus intended to achieve this very objective. This and similar partnerships in other service areas help to fill gaps in care with an expanded set of complementary services. By looking at partnerships that expand the care continuum, we promote a more holistic approach to caring for clients and become trusted advisors in care coordination. By expanding these partnerships, the larger health care ecosystem will also increasingly recognize that assistance with activities of daily living, transportation, companionship and more can significantly improve health outcomes and client safety.
— Rich Paul, chief partnership officer at Synergy HomeCare
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If I had to choose the most critical partner for any home care agency, it would be a strong provider of PT/OT and speech therapy services. Given what we do and the diagnoses we most commonly tackle, it’s very important clients are assessed for and maintain their strength, flexibility and ability to walk safely. The biggest event that triggers a downfall or downward spiral for someone receiving home care would be a fall, which often results in hospitalization. This most commonly occurs at night, when there is either no caregiver on hand or the circumstances are poor with lighting, tripping hazards and poor balance.
At Alliance Homecare, we conduct a dual assessment on all new long-term clients. That assessment involves a nurse and social worker doing a full review on client status, then building a plan of care. We have an unofficial third assessment that happens in the first few weeks of care with our therapy services partner Lifelong Therapeutics (LLT). They do a few standardized tests on our clients, set a quantified benchmark for physical ability, then measure that over the course of care. For clients who begin therapy, LLT works closely with our care managers and clinical team to make sure we are doing all we can and integrating our caregivers into the program when possible. Their experts combined with ours create a much stronger ecosystem for our clients.
— Gregory Solometo, CEO of Alliance Homecare
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My immediate reaction is business development. Strategically partnering with home health providers, who, in my experience, are generally myopic on providing skilled care and can lack the skill set to compete in non-medical home care compared to the pure-play providers, is essential. Receiving an introduction to the family and being recommended to care for their clients when the home health provider is not scheduled for skilled care can be a win-win in today’s Medicare/managed care reimbursement environment.
However, in 2021, when many of us cannot staff the cases we have, business development takes second to recruitment and retention. Creating lasting partnerships and programs to support caregivers is essential.
One of the most effective ways to recruit is internal referrals: partnering with our caregivers to find new candidates through a referral bonus program. The average Griswold caregiver tenure is almost 26 months, so our caregivers can show potential candidates that Griswold is not just a short-term job, but a great place to grow and evolve their career. In addition, we are refocusing the Jean Griswold Foundation to emphasize caregiver support through educational programs and scholarships. We’re also creating partnerships with institutions to provide support for caregivers — both Griswold caregivers and others — to help them learn and grow professionally.
— Michael Slupecki, CEO of Griswold Home Care
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The consistent trend that I have seen is the challenges that come with caregiver recruitment and retention. A partnership with a caregiver training provider is one of the most important partnerships for a non-medical home care company to have.
Having a true partner so that agencies can adequately train their caregivers on the services they provide is not only important for their clients, but also for the caregivers themselves. Caregivers want to be able to increase their skills and abilities to adequately care for their clients. They also want to grow in their careers. It’s especially important to have training centered around specific health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions.
Proper training is likewise imperative for onboarding new caregivers. We are a franchised organization, and every state has its own requirements on training. It’s crucial for agencies to meet their state requirements for caregiver training. And we do recommend our franchisees to go above and beyond those requirements so that they stand out from the competition. Our partnerships with caregiving training providers have helped our agencies become industry leaders. Our franchise owners are able to focus on running the business because they know the caregiver training is taken care of through strong partnerships.
— Michelle Cone, senior vice president of training and brand programs, HomeWell Franchising Inc.
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In 2021, non-medical home care companies have to partner with other providers in the health care continuum. With our recent purchase by Advocate Aurora Enterprises, Senior Helpers now has access to the entire health care continuum in Illinois and Wisconsin.
However, we are looking at other partnerships outside of those two markets, in our other 42 states we operate in. Families looking for home care don’t want to have to know every company they will need help with. In addition, health care providers, nutrition and home modifications will be very important as well, so that people can age independently in their own home. They need one company to help coordinate their needs for their loved ones. Care management and care coordination will be the key to providing the right care and services to families.