COVID-19’s toll on the elderly and older Americans’ growing desire to age in place at home have created far-reaching opportunities for home health. At the same time, pandemic restrictions coupled with a traditional home care mindset may prevent some agencies from fully benefiting from this moment.
What follows are five key areas where forward-thinking home health agencies can pivot from pre-pandemic approaches to a more modern, efficient and profitable ‘new normal.’ Use these strategies to engage new prospects and caregivers AND strengthen connections with existing clients, patients and their families.
Pivot 1: Diversify client base.
Instead of relying on their usual clients and institutions, agencies should think outside the box. That requires preparing themselves for emerging models of home care. The good news is that home-based healthcare referrals are on the rise. In fact, a William Blair survey found that 81% of physicians responsible for discharge planning now prefer to refer patients to a home health agency versus a skilled nursing facility (SNF).
In another example, the newly launched Mayo Clinic advanced care hospital-at-home model provides care for patients with advanced conditions previously managed in a hospital.
Also, as elective surgeries resume, more patients will require rehabilitative home care in lieu of an SNF stay. And as businesses reopen, opportunities exist for home health agencies to staff COVID-19 screening and testing programs. Responsibilities include temperature screenings, disinfection and other tasks.
Ultimately, client and industry diversity will create long-term prospects for agencies and improve revenue streams.
Pivot 2: Embrace Digital Marketing.
Even for home health agencies who swear by traditional marketing, the pandemic necessitates a shift to digital marketing. This applies to sales and recruiting as well as fostering client and patient connections. In fact, one Florida home health provider warned that “Agencies who don’t adopt digital marketing will fall behind. They will miss the thousands of potential leads from people electronically searching for ‘home care services near me.’”
Here are a few examples of digital marketing:
- Social media posts
- Virtual video tours
- E-mail newsletters and texting
- Website refreshes to include blogs, COVID-19 resources, and health and wellness information
Important: align all digital and sales channels with a common message: During a pandemic, a patient’s home is the safest place to be.
Pivot 3: Inventory workforce skills.
‘Home-as-hospital’ models like the Mayo Clinic’s and the SNF-to-home diversion trend mentioned above raise critical questions for agencies. For example, do current caregivers possess the complex skill set to care for patients with advanced conditions? Patients who will likely need dialysis, wound care, and ostomies in the home? If not, agencies should expand longstanding recruitment criteria. This will help them to locate the most desirable candidates to fill those eventual referrals.
Pivot 4: Accept the ‘virtual’ reality.
Quarantine and social distancing have canceled face-to-face encounters for the moment. Consequently, agencies who haven’t added Zoom, Facetime, GrandPad, and iPads to their tech arsenal should do so STAT. Employ these virtual tools for team meetings, candidate pre-screening and onboarding, and client outreach. Consider conducting virtual sales visits with prospective clients and offering socially distanced family visits to patients.
Also, at a time when infection fears are high, install software to remotely document caregivers’ and patients’ daily health and temperatures.
Finally, don’t overlook telehealth as a safe, socially distanced alternative to some in-person home health visits. Physicians and other health professionals are now seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did pre-pandemic, according to a McKinsey & Company survey. Assure caregivers that remote monitoring of patients doesn’t replace the caregiver but rather supports them.
Pivot 5: Leverage relationships.
Remember, we’re all in this together and have weathered challenging periods before. As home health plans its pandemic pivots, remember that Mobile Health is a trusted occupational health partner. Our electronic medical records, Client Portal, next-day appointments at 2,700+ clinic and urgent care locations nationwide, and rapid test results will help agencies recruit and retain the talent they’ll need to compete as a valued home healthcare player.