Help at Home CIO Carole Hodsdon says increased mobility for ­caregivers has driven the organization’s use of cloud resources.

Sep 07 2022

How Home Healthcare Organizations Are Staying Connected

Home healthcare providers are no strangers to mobility. Cloud-based tools and digital patient access are taking their strategies to the next level.

Most older adults hope to age at home or within their current community. Some 77 percent of adults age 50 or older would prefer to remain in their current residence, according to a 2021 AARP survey. And that goal to age in place is well within reach as home healthcare organizations find support through digital transformation.

With about 10,000 in the U.S. turning 65 every day, demand is increasing for home care services. The care-at-home industry, which includes skilled at-home caregiving and medical care, is expanding rapidly to keep up. The CAH market is expected to reach nearly $294 billion by 2026, according to Brandessence Market Research.

CAH has been somewhat digitally mature for several decades now, but new technologies are helping make home care even more efficient for workers and beneficial for patient well-being, according to industry expert Keith Crownover, associate partner at Stoneridge Partners.

“What people don’t realize is that the home care industry has been automated to a high degree since the mid-1990s,” Crownover says. “Home care professionals have been remote workers forever. They were documenting electronically while the clinical space lagged somewhat.”

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The next area of focus, he adds, includes mobile technology that can help connect a fragmented healthcare system and facilitate increased productivity.

“Technology is about enabling the employees, now more than ever,” Crownover says. “We need to strengthen the ability of caregivers to provide better care with increased demand.”

As for communication among different care providers, Crownover says this is a challenge that still needs to be addressed: “Home healthcare agencies, nursing homes and hospitals aren’t connected digitally. The ­No. 1 thing we need is interoperability between members of the care continuum.”

WATCH: Northwell Health strengthens seamless communication for better collaboration.

Home Healthcare Providers Stay Nimble with Mobile-Friendly Tools

Chicago-based Help at Home is creating a more tech-enabled environment to help employees streamline their administrative tasks so they can focus on client care.

The company, which has been in the home healthcare business for more than 45 years, has locations in 12 states with 190 branches, 49,000 expert caregivers and 67,000 clients. A recent acquisition of two New York-based home care organizations expanded its footprint.

Help at Home’s long-term plans include reliance on innovative technologies, says Jenna Urban, vice president of business transformation.

“Our business model is based on engaging our clients with the right caregivers,” Urban says. “We realized our employees needed more mobile-friendly tools to do their jobs, which we implemented with a strong focus on effective change management.”

This included surveying employees about their current technology use, evaluating electronic visit-verification tools and thoughtfully designing training.

But new technology adoption doesn’t happen overnight, adds CIO Carole Hodsdon.

“It’s one thing to roll out a new system; it’s another thing to make sure people use it,” Hodsdon says. “We developed a feedback loop to understand where issues are so we could address them consistently. By doing that, we retain more employees, creating better lives for our clients as well.”

 

Increasing its mobile technology led to significant upgrades to Help at Home’s infrastructure.

“Because we are more mobile, we’ve also increased our cloud use,” Hodsdon says. “Adding more technology also meant kicking up our cybersecurity; we have to maintain a certain cybersecurity footprint.”

Help at Home uses Microsoft Azure for most of its cloud services and CrowdStrike as one of its cybersecurity tools. The company is also evolving its use of data analytics to better understand its operations and clients.

“We use operational information at a high level to measure how well we are covering an area,” Urban says. “For example, do we need to increase caregivers somewhere? Are we serving clients properly? In some of our markets, we’re piloting the use of data collected by our caregivers to analyze social determinants of health and coordinate interventions for clients who need additional clinical assessments or further care.”

DISCOVER: Trends affecting technology adoption in post-acute and senior care.

Momentum is Picking Up for Mobile Solutions in Home Healthcare

New Jersey-based agency Bayada offers a variety of services, ranging from personal care to private nursing. The home care organization served approximately 150,000 clients in 2021 and works with an average of 36,000 clients weekly in 22 states.

Employees and clients are already accustomed to mobile technology, says CIO Ed Malinowski.

“All of our employees have applications and digital tools on their personal devices,” he says. “They’re able to securely access the mobile apps, clock in and clock out, and record activities.”

Many of Bayada’s clients have been issued a 10-inch Samsung tablet that stays in the client’s home, with an accompanying data plan.

“We have upward of 15,000 devices that we’re managing,” Malinowski says. “The tablets are in kiosk mode, and patients and their families can use them to record health information or conduct telehealth visits.”

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Though many home care agencies like Bayada were fairly mature in their mobile technology when COVID-19 arrived, Malinowski says the pandemic forced others in the healthcare community, such as hospitals and clinics, to catch up.

“The most interesting thing that’s happened is the velocity of change in digital adoption, where healthcare ­historically lags,” he says.

At Bayada, Malinowski’s team is looking to continue its momentum with additional digital tools.

“We expanded our use of Amazon Web Services to deploy more digital tools faster,” he adds. “We’ve doubled down on our use of data analytics.”

Data can predict when a patient may need preventive healthcare, and can create efficiencies for Bayada employees as demand for home services continues to grow. “Any way we can get ahead of the numbers, the better,” Malinowski says.

FIND OUT: How mobility is taking care of patients and providers.

Looking Ahead to the Future of Mobility in Home Healthcare

End-of-life home healthcare organization Alive Hospice, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., focuses on a 12-county region of the state. The company was an early adopter of technology, says Devin Smith, vice president of IT and security, pushing for a HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing solution and developing capabilities for remote health monitoring. Before the pandemic, it had already moved much of its infrastructure to Azure (the agency runs on Microsoft 365).

“Alive’s technology portfolio is on the leading edge, even though we’re a nonprofit,” Smith says.

Donor support propelled Alive’s Henry Hooker Connect, a telehospice program that uses an app that can be downloaded to any device or given to patients on an Apple iPad device. The app provides hospice patients with around-the-clock access to telehealth professionals.

Like most care-at-home providers, Alive Hospice is focused on providing additional technology to its caregivers and patients to improve the at-home care experience.

“We’re building more benefits for patients and caregivers, such as online grief and spiritual support,” Smith says. “We’re looking at all kinds of ways to communicate, including video, online chat and virtual reality. Imagine a patient putting on a pair of VR glasses and being able to pull away to relax or meditate.”

UP NEXT: What’s in store for the future of at-home acute care?

Photography By Matthew Gilson

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