Home care company leaders are increasingly being challenged to find creative ways to solve some of the sector’s most persistent issues, while looking to thrive in a space that has more eyes on it than ever.
One thing that is on the mind of most home care CEOs is the way they’ve seen billing rates change over the past year or two.
“I can speak just through the lens of Massachusetts right now,” Best of Care CEO Kevin Smith said last week during a panel discussion at Home Health Care News’ Capital+Strategy conference in Washington, D.C. “For those of us who are delivering state-funded home care — those rates are on the rise. There’s been a lot of advocacy, a lot of work, and a lot of publicity behind those efforts, to sort of bring the tide up.”
Best of Care is a Quincy, Massachusetts-based personal home care agency. The company has over 400 home care aides, administrative staff, care managers, nurses and move managers. The company also has a care management division, TUCKed In Eldercare.
At Family & Nursing Care, a private-pay agency, the organization is seeing a lot more flexibility around billing rates, according to CEO Neal Kursban.
“You can simply raise your rates and raise the caregiver wages,” he said at Capital+Strategy.
Based in Maryland, Family & Nursing Care is also one of the largest private-pay home care companies in the Washington, D.C., area. Currently, the company provides just under 41,000 hours of care per week.
As a franchise company, Synergy Home Care doesn’t set rates for its franchisees. Instead, the franchisees are setting the rates at each independently owned and operated location.
“The market really dictates rates and it starts with labor,” Synergy Home Care CEO Charlie Young said at Capital+Strategy. “The last 12 months, our average hourly rate across our system is up, a little over 12%. We’re over $30 at this point, on a national basis, a big variation from the East and West coasts to the middle of the country and the South. The demand is there. I don’t see an end right now in the private-pay space on the rate increase that we’re seeing.”
Home care leaders are also focused on the ways they can innovate in order to address industry challenges, such as capacity management.
“The focus has been to recruit, recruit, recruit,” Young said. “I have a stable of caregivers, but now they’re not all operating at their peak capacity. Related to that is the logistics of delivering care operationally in a marketplace. How can we be the most efficient to deliver caregivers around that said marketplace?”
For Best of Care, tapping into new talent pools has been a key part of the company’s strategy to innovate recruitment.
“We all employ the same group of people, that’s the worst kept secret,” Smith said. “If we can find new people to come and work for us, that’s been a big difference maker.”
Smith noted that prioritizing training goes hand-in-hand with ensuring home care newcomers get up to speed. It’s also a big part of retaining existing staff.
On its end, Family & Nursing Care has set its sights on ramping up on the technology front. Kursban pointed out that it’s the company’s biggest pain point.
The company has implemented call recording with AI capabilities, according to Kursban.
“Taking that a step further is the AI component. … Managers don’t have to spend time listening to the whole call, which they’ll never have the time to do,” he said. “If they know, go to eight minutes into the 12 minute conversation they can just zero in. I think that has allowed us to stay a small business, where you still have your finger on the pulse.”
Finding the right partners
As home care has continued to rise in prominence, it has also meant a slew of new opportunities and partnerships.
Best of Care was recently named a preferred provider – in a partnership with a local hospital – with one of its local Medicaid referral partners.
“Essentially, [people] who are frequently in hospitals being discharged home and being automatically authorized for Medicaid service through this partner are immediately referred to Best of Care,” Smith said. “It’s to receive 24/7 home care in a period of time, to try and stabilize that person, so that we can limit that frequent hospital trip.”
The company has also built in a care management component so that a home care aide isn’t the sole person responsible for tracking the progress of a complex, acute patient coming home from the hospital.
Synergy is looking to form partnerships that will bring products to bear that will help provide care services in the home.
“Joy For All Companion Pet is one of my favorites in that category,” Young said. “They provide a robotic pet cat or dog in memory care cases. They have great success with it, so that’s an example of that type of partnership.”
That said, when it comes to partnerships, Kursban stressed the importance of finding the right ones versus jumping at any opportunity.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” he said. “Our biz development people always want to partner here, and they want to do this, and try that. Then you try to operationalize it, and your reputation can suffer when you try to do too many things. When we choose to partner it’s [about] how does it already operationally flow with what we’re doing? A lot of decisions to not partner end up … being the best decisions.”