Employment for home health and personal care aides is predicted to grow “much faster than average” over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Even with this predicted increase, however, there’s a growing gap between the number of available personnel and the patients they serve. Those looking for care already outnumber skilled staff 2:1, and in a post-pandemic world, home health demand is expected to skyrocket.2
For home health this creates a challenge: Handling more work with fewer staff even as the market expands and expectations around patient-centered care increase. Best bet? Home health providers can start by reducing complexity at the first point of contact, with visits and scheduling. Here are three tips to help streamline this process.
1) Standardize Scheduling Frameworks
With many home health providers now opting for fully remote or hybrid operations that see staff scheduling telehealth visits and on-site patient visits independently, scheduling standardization is paramount.3 In practice, this means finding and adopting a scheduling system that works for the entire agency, from front-line staff to leadership teams.
There are a host of options available — from legacy tools to mobile solutions and on-demand cloud apps — but in this case function trumps form. By ensuring all staff use the same scheduling tool, home health providers can reduce the risk of missed visits and frustrated families.
2) Minimize Booking Conflicts
It’s also critical to keep an eye out on potential scheduling conflicts. These often occur despite best efforts by staff and team leaders; in-demand home health specialists may not realize they’ve double-booked themselves or have entered visit times incorrectly, especially as they’re required to spend more time completing both visit reporting and compliance documentation.
Here, on-demand home health care software can help provide key visibility and oversight with automatic conflict notification. This allows staff to correct scheduling problems before they occur, rather than trying to make up for lost time after the fact.
3) Empower Employee Autonomy
The job of home health staff is rapidly becoming more complex. As noted by recent research, home health nurses must not only align with agency requirements and coordinate with other providers, they also need to account for patient needs and preferences to ensure they’re delivering the highest possible standard of care.4
As a result, it’s essential for home health agencies to empower employee autonomy when it comes to scheduling. This starts with general guidelines that describe common expectations and define key best practices — such as real-time tasks and workflow reporting to meet evolving compliance expectations — but must also build in recognition that skilled staff are best suited to make decisions around scheduling.
For example, a staff member might determine that a specific patient needs extra care and attention based on current circumstances and extend visit time to account for these necessities. Or the staff member might leverage telehealth connections for regular check-ups but forgo on-site visits. While visibility into these scheduling decisions is critical, autonomy forms the basis of effective home health care.
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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Home Health and Personal Care Aides,” April 9, 2021.
2 Barron’s, “Demand for Home Care Is Expected to Boom. Finding It Might Not Be So Easy,” May 30, 2020.
3 mHealth Intelligence, “The Promise and Potential for Telehealth in Home Health,” July 10, 2020.
4 NCBI, “How Home Health Nurses Plan Their Work Schedules: A Qualitative Descriptive Study,” July 23, 2018.