Like so many businesses and services, navigating the home care space during the COVID-19 outbreak has come with a litany of challenges for agencies, caregivers and clients alike. Sending individuals into private homes in a global pandemic doesn’t come with an instruction manual, after all. But now, nearly four months after the US was thrust into lockdown mode in March, all 50 states have begun reopening and easing restrictions, which brings about a new need for those in the home care business to re-calibrate their practices, and revisit guidelines.
The facts are fairly simple: Despite the virus being firmly entrenched in wave 1 — and new cases are on the rise in 42 of 50 states as of early July — there is still a need for in-home assistance. Additionally, agencies are operating with far fewer caregivers. And most importantly, everyone involved needs to stay healthy and safe. So here at CareConnect, the app we’ve created to enable agencies to match the right caregiver to clients as well as scheduling those in-home appointments, we moved quickly to develop additional tools to problem solve during COVID-19, and more importantly, beyond. In fact, once the guidance came out, it only took us five days to create and implement a solution — which we made available to our partners at no cost.
“We launched SafeCare, which is a daily COVID-19 screening tool,” says President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Gelman. "Its purpose is to enable agencies to send out daily messages to caregivers via the app (as well as additional email and SMS notifications), and those caregivers can then take a survey on their phone instantaneously, providing feedback directly to the agency.” Those results then push to a web portal, allowing the agency to see who has passed, failed, who hasn’t taken it yet, etc. Essentially, we’re helping to provide a necessary layer of monitoring for the agencies to ensure that it’s safe to enter a client’s home.
“It's Purpose is to enable agencies to send out daily messages to caregivers via the app...instantaneously providing feedback directly to the agency."
This is especially important now that caregivers are able to move about more in their communities, allowing the potential for exposure to creep back in. “Before, you only needed to know was that person an industry caregiver of ‘good standing’ as far as state and medical [regulations], but now it’s like, ‘Do you have a cough? A temperature? Have you been in contact with someone infected? Traveled? Those are the questions we’re now asking them,” says Gelman.
Those increased monitoring efforts are, of course, in addition to the baseline, which is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by caregivers as they perform Activities of Daily Living for clients (such as feeding, bathing, grooming, dressing, mobility, etc.) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (like housekeeping, mail, managing finances, meal prep, etc.). While PPE used to be primarily used with patients who were immunocompromised, frail or at-risk, in the COVID-19 era and beyond, it is now essential.
But being quick to react to the need for screening has only been part of the necessary innovation. Home care agencies are also operating with reduced workforces since the pandemic, which provides another level of challenges. “If you have to reduce, you want to know which caregivers are the most applicable and important for your client base,” explains Gelman. “And you need to hire people that aren’t just applicable, but are also meeting screenings, ready to work at any time, have the right relationship with your clients, etc.”
We also recognize that caregivers, for their part, also need to work enough shifts to earn a liveable wage and be able to rely on steady work, ideally without having to cobble together shifts from multiple agencies. By utilizing an algorithm that considers not only these factors but also caregiver skillset, proximity to client, etc. as well as enabling schedulers to book everything remotely, we’ve created tools to allow agencies to work smarter with a reduced workforce during and post-COVID.
And if the past few months have been any indication, it’s precisely that Business Model Darwinism that will make all the difference as services rev back up and people return to work.