Home health services are seeing “much faster than average job growth” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 As noted by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), however, “the COVID-19 pandemic has created and exacerbated challenges for home health just at the time of increased need.”2 Some of these challenges include lack of specific guidance from government agencies, transportation issues for employees, and staffing shortages to serve growing client volumes.3
To work around some of these challenges, home health agencies are encouraged to simplify key tasks — such as tracking to-dos and workflows — to streamline the care process at scale. Below are a few suggestions that may help:
1) Get Staff on the Same Track With Training
A recent research paper published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine notes that one area of concern for home health care teams is the high rate of readmission for heart failure (HF) patients after moving from hospital to home care settings.4 Among the top challenges cited by home health staff was the lack of comprehensive training around the intake processes and care plans required for HF patients — staff suggested classroom-based training as a way to alleviate this issue.
The same approach also applies to broader home health agency workflows. By creating consistent training programs for common processes and ensuring all staff are up-to-date, home health providers can increase overall employee confidence and efficiency.
2) Create Consistent Communication Across Teams
Consistent communication is critical for home health organizations, especially as interdisciplinary teams (IDTs) expand in response to evolving patient needs.
More professionals in more homes are handling more detailed treatment plans. With significant overlap between medical and social areas of expertise, however, it’s easy for teams to get their wires crossed when it comes to scheduling, documentation and care delivery. For example, if two team members each expect the other will have completed key paperwork, home health agencies may find themselves lacking the documents required to submit claims data to Medicare or private insurance providers.
To address this problem and ensure to-do lists don’t get overlooked, consistent communication is critical. This could take the form of weekly virtual check-ins with all team members or the use of a mobile application or software tool that makes it possible for staff to connect and communicate on-demand.
3) Implement Processes to Reduce Data Duplication
As noted by Healthcare IT News, almost 20 percent of patient records are duplicates, and these duplicate records can cause both billing errors and claims denials, along with wasting staff time on work that’s already been completed.5
The decentralized nature of home health care makes this an even bigger challenge for providers. With staff often entering data in patient homes’ or as they move to their next scheduled appointment, it’s easy for data duplication to go unnoticed. Home health providers can benefit from processes in place to target and reduce duplication, such as assigning dedicated staff members to review completed documents or establishing a centralized document repository that includes automatic notification of duplicate records.
1 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Home Health and Personal Care Aides,” April 9, 2021.
2 The Academy of American Family Physicians, “The Promise and Challenge of Home Health Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” July 1, 2020.
3 The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, “COVD-19 Intensifies Home Care Workforce Challenges,” May 31, 2021.
4 The Journal of General Internal Medicine, “Understanding the Workflow of Home Health Care for Patients with Heart Failure: Challenges and Opportunities,” February 5, 2020.
5 Healthcare IT News, “Duplication, Fragmentation, Hamper Interoperability Efforts, Impact Patient Safety,” April 30, 2020.