In home-based care, persistent headwinds are forcing leaders to employ new strategies. Those strategies include searching for new partnerships to drive efficiency; looking outside the industry for inspiration; and taking on more value-based and risk-based opportunities.
The headwind with the most persistence is staffing woes. At CenterWell Home Health, forming relationships with universities has been one approach to addressing this pain point.
Specifically, CenterWell Home Health has partnered with Emory University to create a simulation home health lab for nursing students. Susan Benoit, president of CenterWell Home Health, believes that home-based care organizations have to think outside of the box to get ahead when it comes to staffing.
“We did a lot of creative things to try to capture nurses earlier on and educate them on the home health experience, as a profession,” she said during a panel discussion at the Home Care 100 conference last week.
CenterWell Home Health is the home health organization of Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana.
The lab is set up like an apartment, and it’s located in the university’s learning center.
“They’re going to learn about social determinants of health,” Benoit said. “They’re going to learn about how to really look at that patient in their home, learn about the diet, learn about loneliness, and all the aspects that impact patients well-being and patient outcome.”
In addition to its relationship with Emory University, CenterWell Home Health is also involved in clinical rotations with institutions such as University of Houston and UNC Chapel Hill.
Similarly, BrightStar Care has entered a coordinated partnership with Chamberlain University. The two organizations have formed a co-branded home care rotation nurses initiative, which will officially launch in May.
“[It’s about] developing that future workforce,” Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar, said during the panel discussion.
Chicago-based BrightStar Care is a home care and medical staffing franchise with more than 365 locations nationwide. The company provides medical and non-medical services to clients in their homes, as well as supplemental care staff to corporate clients.
On the retention side, BrightStar is focused on making sure they know what the company’s employees actually want.
“[We] make sure they’ve got really strong engagement with our workforce,” Sun said. “We’re trying to understand what they’re looking for, and making sure that we have different paths. For instance, they may want more hours, or, there’s the portion of the workforce that only wants to work two to four hours, and that’s a good matchup for Medicare Advantage (MA).”
For Right at Home, it’s all about what CEO Margaret Haynes has dubbed as the “micro-experience” in terms of how a company builds its brand with its employees.
“We’ve taken the approach of saying, ‘How can we create ‘micro-experiences’ for the employees?’ Whether they’re a caregiver, scheduler or even an owner of the business,” she said during the panel discussion. “How can we break down what their experience is like, and start to find a way that we can make it a little bit more special? How can we give them career paths? How can we give them challenges, and make them feel a part of something that’s bigger than just the role they’re playing?”
Right at Home is a home care franchise company that has more than 600 locations in the U.S. and seven other countries.
In relation to the company’s caregivers, this starts with recognizing that these workers may feel like they’re on an island throughout a work day.
“[It’s about] how we get them resources and support while they’re in the home, but also engaging with that office,” Haynes said.
Customer experience and growth
Home-based care leaders are also focused on the correlation between the customer experience and growth objectives.
“We talk a lot about how we have to fall in love with our customers’ problems and not with our solutions, so we have to be willing to constantly think differently,” Haynes said.
Thinking differently can mean looking outside of the industry for solutions.
Benoit has found inspiration from UPS, for example.
“I think about the efficiency of scheduling, and routing, and how to reduce time for those clinicians so that we can retain them,” she said. “I go back to a company that’s done really well, year after year. I think about UPS. They’ve mastered scheduling because they have really taken data and analyzed everything about the UPS driver and about the route.”
On its end, Enhabit Inc. (NYSE: EHAB), has set its sights on risk-bearing opportunities, including MA.
Dallas-based Enhabit is a home health and hospice provider. The company has 250 home health locations and 100 hospice locations across 34 states.
Barbara Jacobsmeyer, president and CEO of Enhabit, says this is an area that the company is especially passionate about.
The company is actively working to move away from the challenges that home-based care organizations face when forming relationships with MA plans.
“One of the things that I think we all have to realize is that for a long time, it’s been a one-way street,” Jacobsmeyer said. “All of us are at the table saying, ‘We need more,’ especially with today’s labor force and inflation. We all need to behave fairly. The conversations we’re trying to have [are around that] two-way street. We should be demanding more, but the plan should be expecting more from us.”
Ultimately, Jacobsmeyer believes home-based care providers need to be able to position themselves as the solution that MA plans need.
“For some, their pain point is access, for some it is timely initiation of care, for others their pain point is member satisfaction,” she said. “There are so many things that we can be the solution to. The conversation is first really understanding what are the challenges they’re dealing with, but then having hard data to prove how we can be the solution.”