When home-based care provider leaders discuss implementing new technologies in the home, they often talk about how those technologies can improve efficiency and lower costs.
However, getting buy-in from clients and patients in the home is a lot easier said than done.
Having patients use technologies like wearable devices, remote patient monitoring software and tablets can often feel like pushing water uphill.
“We didn’t expect seniors to fully embrace technology, but it was tough,” Caring Senior Service COO Jeff Bevis told Home Health Care News. “It was a lot tougher than we thought.”
A pilot plan that struggled
Before joining Caring Senior Service two years ago, Bevis rebuilt the Comfort Keepers brand from 2003 to 2008. Following that, Bevis and his son created FirstLight Home Care, a company that he ran for 11 years.
In 2018, Bevis and his team at FirstLight had the idea to send out 300 tablets into the field for caregivers, clients and their families to create core functionality in the home. At the time, FirstLight was one of the first providers to do this at scale.
Looking back on the experience now, Bevis called the pilot “semi-successful.”
“We didn’t get the rapid adoption by the clients and the families that we had hoped,” Bevis said. “We tried to use things like senior fitness, exercise, recipes as well as core communications. We had a family portal where families could use secured care notes. We thought we could build a pretty robust base and draw to those tablets. But we discovered there was a bigger technology aversion than we anticipated.”
FirstLight knew there would be a learning curve associated with these new technologies.
But one of the main lessons learned, Bevis said, was that the company tried to implement too many different technologies too quickly. Around that same time, FirstLight also piloted remote patient monitoring in homes, which also received a mixed response.
“We were truly trying to force too much technology, too fast, into the home setting,” he said. “Not to say they weren’t open to it in some way, but one of our takeaways was just that. The learning curve with a senior — and even with the senior and the caregiver working that technology together — is a daunting task.”
Bevis and his team were realistic with their goals as well. They didn’t expect 100% adoption during the pilot. Instead, they set their sights on between 35% and 40% adoption.
However, that number came in at about 10% or 15%.
“That did reinforce some of the findings and failings that we’ve had in our industry,” Bevis said. ‘We knew it was going to be a daunting task because the industry had always struggled to do this over the last 15 to 20 years.”
Technology growing pains
Bedrock Health at Home, a New Jersey-based home care management company, has been heavily investing in these kinds of technologies.
Under its portfolio is Bedrock at Home, a home care provider that takes care of about 3,000 clients per year.
Andre Gomez, the executive vice president of Bedrock Health at Home, told HHCN that his company has run into similar problems.
“Whether it’s remote patient monitoring, wearable devices, a pulse oximeter or even a blood pressure cuff, it’s unfortunate when some of the seniors don’t take these technologies seriously,” Gomez said.
But there have been encouraging signs recently. Bedrock has invested heavily in beta-testing wearables to track clients’ vital signs, hydration levels, falling risks and activity levels.
The investments being made are in consideration of what payers would like to see out, Gomez said.
“We have to be able to utilize technology in all aspects of care because payer sources — especially after the pandemic — realized that through technology, they can reduce rehospitalizations and they can really spend a lot less money on care,” Gomez said. “The key is really being able to see what works for some people and what doesn’t. Some of our patients do great with remote patient monitoring. Others don’t.”
Looking back on some of the struggles FirstLight faced when implementing certain technologies, one of the main lessons learned for Bevis was to consider the long-term play.
“I would have gotten a much better commitment or alignment across the organization,” Bevis said. “You’ve got to go into it with a long-term view. It’s not a short game. It’s a three- or four-year process. You’ve got to get total buy-in from the franchise owners, the leaders and the executives of whatever provider you’re with and you all have to be on the same page. You have to all be committed, and we didn’t have that at FirstLight.”
Things at Caring Senior Service are much different, he said. Bevis joined the company two years ago and today, they have tablets in every home.
“It’s almost like a best-kept secret in the industry, quite honestly,” Bevis said. “It hasn’t been easy, but the key here is that we’ve made it part of our core operating system. In home health, they’ve been doing it for years, but in home care, we’ve been lagging behind. We’ve been doing that here for four years and it’s become a mainstay for our clients and the caregivers.”
Treating home care visits like home health visits – where a tablet is part of every visit – is one of the many steps in acclimating clients to the technology.
“It’s going to take time,” Bevis said. “There are going to be bumps in the road. It’s not going to be a perfect scenario ever. So I think people need to be much more realistic about their goals and they need to be much more aligned in their thinking, and more committed to education and training.”