The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with Homecare Homebase. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of home health, hospice care, senior housing, skilled nursing, and behavioral health. To see this year’s Future Leaders, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.
Kristen Duell, the executive vice president of experience and innovation at the Cincinnati-based FirstLight Home Care, has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Home Health Care News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Duell sat down with HHCN to talk about: why home care is in a transformative state; the exact moment she knew home-based care would be a driving force in her career; and the importance of strategically investing in technology.
HHCN: What drew you to this industry?
Duell: I started out as a hospital volunteer and then became a unit assistant when I could get a full-time job.
I knew from those days of working in the hospital — and seeing readmissions, and just some of the challenges that come from the health care perspective on the acute care side — that I would find my forever home in health care. After working for Integrity Home Care + Hospice, it cemented that my passion was going to be for our industry which is delivering care in people’s homes. I saw the power and importance of it. It meant so much to me to get to be a part of their lives like that. I think that’s when I knew.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
Although the opportunity in our industry is huge, it is a very small industry. You should never burn bridges. That can go both ways. You should protect your reputation because at the end of the day, no one can take that away from you. That goes with you everywhere you go.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of home care, what would it be?
The strategy around investments into technology would be an area that I would really like to see focused and honed in on.
It would be great if the investments were actually focused on accelerating the provider’s ability to properly streamline and actually create efficiencies, rather than compounding problems through M&A, with no actual symmetry being done between the solutions. I think it’s done haphazardly at this point. I think if we were to look at somewhere where we needed to invest a stronger strategies model, it would be in that area.
What do you foresee as being different about the home care industry looking ahead to 2024 and beyond?
I’m really excited about some of the newer technologies that are coming out right now, and what that could mean for the industry.
We’re still wrapping our arms around, what does AI look like? How do you leverage solutions like ChatGPT? How do you leverage predictive models within technology, so that it actually makes your systems more streamlined?
When you look to 2024, and even throughout the rest of this year, you’re gonna see more businesses taking that and leveraging those models to deliver more potent solutions.
In a word, how would you describe the future of home care?
Transformative — I think we’re in a transformative state. People would say that we’ve been in a transformative state, but I don’t think we actually were. I think COVID and the things that we’ve experienced in the last few years have accelerated it, and now technology is finally catching up in the health care industry.
If you could give advice to yourself looking back to your first day in the industry, what would it be and why?
You have to be resilient. I think if I was going to talk to myself, in my younger years, [my advice] would be to be more kind to yourself, and develop resilience even faster. You are so much more powerful than you give yourself credit for.
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com/.