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How Has Technology Successfully Helped Support Home Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday January 21, 2021

A few weeks ago, we hosted an Ask the Experts webinar that provided great value, so we wanted to share it on our blog for anyone who may have missed it. There was so much information shared that we will be breaking the content up into a series of blog posts, so stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for additional posts from all of our experts.

Ask the Experts Panel:

Tim Rowan, our moderator, is a nationally known home health care consultant, and the publisher of Homecare Technology, the Rowan Report, which is one of the industry's premier technology newsletters, and has been since 1999. He has been in the home healthcare space since 1993 and been teaching home care agencies how to manage their online reputation since 2015.

Jim Rolla is the Senior Vice President at Partners in Care, which of course is within the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Jim has 27 years of progressive experience in licensed home health care services. With a proven track record in business development, operations, profitability, regulatory compliances, his talents go on and on, including multi-site, multi state location management.

Mike Gelman is the President and Chief Operations Officer at CareConnect. Mike is a financial and corporate development person. He has been an Operations Executive with 20 years-experience in senior roles at institutionally backed healthcare and technology companies. He brings a wealth of experience to help CareConnect, provide services to you, the home care provider.

Steve Pellito is the Senior Vice President of Sales at Sandata Technologies and has 20 years of experience in healthcare, sales, management and business development. Currently, Steve leads the provider sales and marketing team at Sandata and is responsible for the development and execution of the national go to market strategy.

 

What are some of the challenges that Partners in Care (VNSNY) and other healthcare partners have recently experienced?

It's definitely an understatement to say 2020 was an important and memorable year…for all the wrong reasons. However, the overarching theme to both the homecare industry and just in general, is the fact that homecare is a patient-facing business. We rely very heavily on direct care in the community and our workforce works predominantly in the field with minimal on-site supervision, even in a perfect world. Looking into how we move forward and do things differently, some of the key questions and problems the home healthcare industry currently faces include:

  1. What is the protocol for temperature checks?
  2. How do we still safely deliver care?
  3. How do we continue to treat patients safely in the home? And how do we do that with a workforce that relies very heavily on being out in the community, which involves spending a lot of time on public transportation, particularly in the city, going from patient to patient? And then just the very fundamentals of what COVID represents to people. You're bringing people into your home, and you are allowing people to come into your home that have been out in the community, spending a lot of time where they are at high risk for exposure.
  4. How do we help other companies? When the health department required caregiver COVID-19 screenings, CareConnect and Sandata saw an opportunity to do something helpful. CareConnect produced the COVID-19 screener that, I think, has over 80,000 caregivers a day right now using it. This is an example of how working together we were able to use the CareConnect technology to turn a challenge into an opportunity to help support caregivers.
  5. Agencies are struggling with various mandates as well, such as payroll, EVV and compliance mandates.
  6. How can daily communication stay constant in the current environment?
  7. How can healthcare agencies continue to run their day-to-day business with as little disruption as possible, given the current environment?

The state has a great printable guide following all CDC guidelines titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Home Health Care Workers and Community Health Care Workers” covering temperature checks and many other topics we frequently share with our caregivers and clients. Click to view covid-19-home-community-healthcare-workers.pdf (nyc.gov)

 

At Partners in Care, VNSNY, can you describe what you have deployed in general and with CareConnect, in particular?

Since the early 90s, home healthcare has always been a paper business, and even today with all the technology that's available, there still is a reluctance among the industry to use the technology solutions because a lot of people are very comfortable with the paper way of doing things.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for technology and how important it is for the home healthcare industry to shift away from paper schedules to a legitimate technology player and drive better patient outcomes. It’s possible that the silver lining, at least for Partners in Care, was that it forced us to use the technology that we already started building, amongst the administrative staff and the aides. In the past, we've underestimated how much home health aides want technology and are willing to use it.

We as providers needed to come to the table and determine or come up with a solution to screen 7,000 people every day and make sure that they were and are doing a self-assessment and not risking exposure in the community. For agencies, this can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Luckily, the CareConnect COVID screener is a very easy and effective tool that we implemented to do the daily screenings.

It’s helpful because we can do it more than once a day, send reminders for temperature checks, and even push out urgent messaging in a way that we've never been able to do before. Now, with this tool, we're able to broadcast the availability of new cases, which makes it much easier for us to fill them quicker and get a broader reach by putting these assignments out there.

CareConnect is more than a simple home healthcare scheduling tool. It has become a useful messaging tool for all communications, including those about COVID-19 and cases and become something our home health aides embrace and now depend on for their daily work assignments. These tools are not only good for the agency, but they're also good for the caregiver. The caregiver can use their phone to receive or request a shift and an in-service training. It saves them time and travel. The use of this technology has allowed for more flexibility and is really becoming a game changer.

 

Keeping technology in mind for your company post pandemic, have you started to look 12 months ahead and thinking about how your company might change with the announcement of the vaccine?

We see everything as an opportunity. The State of New York has contacted us to participate in administering flu vaccinations, which we usually do, but we expect that will lead to us being directly involved in COVID-19 vaccinations as well. One of the things that we were directly involved in was petitioning the State Department of Health to allow us to deliver our in-service training remotely online.

The Department of Health is strapped for resources. The State doesn't provide the DOH surveyor staff with enough resources to support a lot of technology. Knowing the shortage of home health aides that exists and being able to have the flexibility to offer online home health aide initial in-service certifications is something the DOH has not been open to. We’ve advanced this issue to address the workforce shortage and allow for a second wave if needed. We cannot operate without having a consistent flow of new applicants.

The Department of Health gave us the opportunity to present this proposal and allowed us to deliver online education. There are still face-to-face components in terms of skills and testing, but it’s a big leap forward to give the classroom training online. We’re always trying to think about what we could do better or differently than the first time, if there is a second wave.

Additional topics discussed in the Ask the Experts webinar:

  1. What modern workforce management solutions are replacing multiple disjointed software systems?
  2. How has the use of technology helped build and strengthen the agency-caregiver relationship?

 

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