The home health business comes with plenty of challenges. When dealing with pediatric care, that’s especially true.
Labor issues, for instance, are exacerbated in pediatric home health care. At the same time, there is a dire need for these types of services.
The Denver-based Solace Pediatric Home Healthcare is an example of a company that has triumphed despite those challenges. Over the last two years, in particular, the company has thrived by establishing strong continuity with patients and leveraging the right technology partners.
“My vision for Solace is to be admired for the quality of our services, the kindness of our people and the integrity and innovation of our work,” Solace CEO Darcie Peacock told Home Health Care News. “Our team works incredibly hard to provide exceptional care and support to our families so they can live their best life.”
Solace currently offers in-home, clinic-based and school-based pediatric services in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, California and Wyoming. It provides occupational, physical and speech therapy services to children from birth to 21 years old.
HHCN recently sat down with Peacock to discuss the company’s journey, the opportunities and challenges within the pediatric home health space and much more.
HHCN: What were the scheduling challenges your teams faced during the pandemic, and how were they fixed?
Peacock: In the past, and during the pandemic, our main scheduling challenge was centered around clinicians. Initially, we would receive referrals and then reference various spreadsheets to see which clinicians served the necessary area before we could even email out those clinicians.
We would then have to sit back and wait to hear from them via email to approve the request. However, clinicians can’t constantly check their email and respond to requests when they’re serving families. We weren’t using our resources efficiently and effectively, and it was impacting our clinicians as well. For instance, we might have a clinician who responds first to take a patient, but towards the end of the day another clinician checks their schedule and they happen to be working in the same area and also have an opening. So now, we have a clinician driving a half hour to see this family when we already had someone in the area and could’ve worked more efficiently.
Before our partnership with [the scheduling tech platform] Skedulo, we had our first scheduling platform for a little over a year or two. While it was meeting our basic needs, we still ran into a few issues once we began to scale. We started to search for a new platform to solve this issue and came across Skedulo, which showed us that the technology platform we were looking for, and needed, actually existed. So once we set up the demo, we realized this was something that could solve our clinician and scalability issues.
What other technology is the company looking to implement?
Our main focus now is on leveraging the technology we have to the fullest extent and getting these systems to talk to each other.
We have many dreams of what we are looking to do with this specific technology and each year, we chip away at that list. We brainstorm and dream, meet with the PA development team and then dig in on these projects.
What are the biggest challenges pediatric home-based care providers face? What needs to happen for those to be fixed, or at least eased?
The number one challenge is burnout. These clinicians work tirelessly to support their families holistically, it’s not just about providing the therapy service to the child. This is both the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of the job. To really understand, you have to try to put yourself in their shoes. Your office is your car. In the winter you get in and it’s freezing, you are running late so you text the next family that you will be there soon, you pull up directions, start driving, maybe try to eat something on the way, field a phone call, your car is finally warm and now you pull up to the next house. That day-in-and-day-out grind is wearing.
To chip away at the burnout, we have to do everything possible to take extra burdens off of our team. How can we decrease drive time? It doesn’t do the clinician any good, doesn’t do the company any good and certainly isn’t helping any families when our clinicians are behind a windshield. How can we streamline simple things like sending that text to the next family and pulling up directions? There is no single answer to fixing this challenge. It’s going to take innovation, using our most valuable resources – our team members – more efficiently.
If something can be automated, find a way to do it.
What are some opportunities?
One specific opportunity pediatric home-based providers experience is being able to develop a strong continuity of care with their patients.
Continuity is so important for us to serve our families because a number of our kids already have challenges building connections. In the past, sometimes a clinician wouldn’t work out with a family if, for example, the commute was too long. In that case, we would need to transition the family to a new provider to better serve the family and clinician.
However, the child would then be immediately impacted because they’ve already formed a bond with this clinician and now have to start over, delaying their progress toward their goal. Being home-based makes enabling continuity so much easier for families. A lot is going on behind the scenes, and for some families, it’s easier for a provider to come to them versus going into a traditional medical office. Because of this, there’s less risk of having to find a new provider if unexpected events occur.
Do you feel like pediatric services in the home are overlooked?
This varies greatly from state to state. Some states really invest in this service delivery model and others do not. The benefits of services being offered in the home are vast. In a clinic setting, you walk out, greet mom and Johnny, take Johnny back and work with him for 30 minutes on the clinic equipment. You take him back out to mom in the waiting room, tell her what you worked on today and that he did great. See you next week.
In the home, you are on the floor, working with Johnny on pulling to stand on his couch, helping him learn to crawl up his stairs. Mom is right there with you the whole time. You are showing mom, “Put your hands just above his hips and give a little lift. Great job! Just like that. Now if he can practice that while you all are playing or watching TV, he’ll be doing it on his own in no time.”
Just by this one example, you can see how working in the child’s natural environment with the family is a game changer. These children make faster gains toward their goals, which put them on a whole different trajectory of development.
What has helped fuel growth for the company?
Solace has been successful because we are focused on the right things. We are focused on our employees and taking care of them.
As a clinician myself, I know the heart of clinicians and our team. They all want to provide the very best care to their patients. For them to do that, I have to take care of them. It’s our job to remove any barriers they face so they can do what they love, what they went to school for, and that is to serve our families. Every single thing we do is focused here. That laser focus manifests itself in a variety of ways. We leverage our technology, like Skedulo, to make their daily lives easier. We have a vehicle program, providing our clinicians with a fantastic mobile office. We spend time and resources supporting our team so they have the mentorship, connections and opportunities to continue advancing their careers.
We have been able to keep up with the demand and growth of the business by leveraging our technology partnership with Skedulo. When we first started working with them, we were completing approximately 2,000 visits per week by 120 clinicians to now 13,000 visits per week and 800 clinicians.
What are the next steps? What does a three-year outlook look like for the company?
I think Solace is just barely getting started.
There are more children than ever in need of our services. We plan to continue to invest in our team and our platform so we can continue to reach more and more families in the states we are currently serving, as well as serving new communities in new states.
We are also looking at ways to wrap our arms around our families more holistically. We have recently added a new service line in Colorado – Family Caregiver Services – that we are also looking to continue expanding, as well as our School Based Services Division based out of Portland, Oregon. I truly believe we offer something unique and special at Solace and I look forward to keeping that at the heart of the organization as we add more clinicians and serve more families.