Mobility matters. That’s true not only for individuals but for organizations within the healthcare industry. As the mobile workforce grows, the greatest challenge facing healthcare administrators is how to keep track of and deploy all these mobile workers.
Without a robust plan, resource planning, the safety of the mobile workers and patients, closer payroll tracking, and patient care can all suffer. Driving fundamental change requires a new framework that addresses the needs of patients, caregivers, and home health care as a whole. In this article, we’ll discuss common in-home healthcare challenges and five key scheduling strategies that drive optimized care and efficiency.
Common In-Home Healthcare Scheduling Challenges
Mobile workers are the lifeline of a critical care-delivery infrastructure that reaches and cares for a diversity of patients. At the same time, budgets continue to tighten, creating a mandate for health care organizations to do more with less. Even so, patients still need and demand quality care. And with shifting demographics delivering that care efficiently is both a necessity and a hurdle. Let’s look at a few common issues that prevent efficiency and positive outcomes for home healthcare organizations.
Manual administration of scheduling and operations creates inefficiencies and obscures critical business insights
Though medical technology has advanced at an incredible rate, the administrative side of healthcare has been slow to keep up. Administrators, focused on delivering care and managing staff, have been reluctant to try new methods:
- Scheduling today is often still done by hand, in an Excel spreadsheet or with an ad hoc system pieced together using various programs. It’s not uncommon to see schedules put together on paper or a whiteboard.
- Spreadsheets and email are not flexible enough for the on-demand needs of a mobile workforce. Getting vital information to the person who needs it immediately can be frustrating. Data scattered across different systems is hard to analyze.
- Version control is an ongoing problem, as there is no way to know if you have the most updated information. Important notes and credentials are easily forgotten and you can’t match patients to the appropriate caregiver without detailed profiles.
With all of this manual administration, it’s hard to get a handle on trends, produce insights about workflow patterns or generate other helpful metrics that organizations need to get ahead. Maximizing organizational efficiency, creating a great experience for patients and optimizing patient/providers matches are all but impossible by these old methods.
Mistrustful patient-provider relationship drives poor health outcomes
There is probably nothing more intimate than having someone come into your home to care for you. When you factor in the vulnerabilities experienced by elderly and disabled populations, it becomes easy to understand why patients might be choosy about who they feel comfortable with. It might be something simple, like a woman preferring care by another woman, or there might be a lot of unique factors to consider when matching patients with the right caregivers.
With manual administration of home healthcare operations, patient preferences can be easily overlooked or forgotten, leading to patient dissatisfaction. Dissatisfied patients won’t share pertinent information with their caregiver, which often results in a costlier intervention in an emergency medical setting. Unhappy patients may frequently change services or providers. They may not comply with their treatment. These incidents, multiplied out across the field, are unsustainable, from both an economic and social perspective.
Disorganized systems lead to disengaged home healthcare professionals
Healthcare administrators have another customer to consider: the health care professional. As home healthcare organizations face greater demand and more competition, attracting, training and retaining the best workers has become a huge priority. Caregiver burnout and the resulting turnover costs an estimated 5 billion each year. Demoralized employees also frequently change jobs, miss work and make costly mistakes.
The number one frustration for home health care workers is feeling overwhelmed with documentation requirements. Many caregivers spend more time documenting on paper than caring for clients, and some have a double burden of manually entering this information into a database.
Scheduling mistakes are also one of the leading causes of lowered morale. These mistakes take a toll on both workers and patients. They can leave pockets of understaffing, even when there are enough professionals on staff, or profoundly inconvenience workers who are not needed. For patients, poor scheduling can result in mistakes where the wrong provider is sent to the wrong appointment, either due to a time/location mix up or because the provider didn’t have the right skill sets. Even when things go right, mobile workers need adequate notice so they can adequately prepare for their appointments.
Lack of real-time data adds to operational costs
The US healthcare system is one of the costliest in the world, as well as the most inefficient. As healthcare costs continue to rise, along with demand, administrative efficiency offers the richest field for cost cutting methodologies. Without system-wide updates and real time communications, managers and decision makers have no visibility into what is happening in the field. Getting staffing right is essential to an efficient and productive operation. There are significant costs associated with overstaffing and understaffing, so organizations with the best information are at an advantage. The best information cannot come from fragmented and disconnected scheduling systems, though.
How to Improve In-Home Healthcare Operations and Scheduling
While manual scheduling methods were adequate for static, centralized healthcare facilities, they won’t work in the emerging mobile healthcare model. Scaling up to meet the diverse needs of a growing patient population requires a smarter approach to scheduling. Here are five ways your organizations can improve operations, scheduling, and, ultimately, the experiences of both patients and providers.
1. Use an automated scheduling system
A more intelligent, less error-prone scheduling system relies on automation to eliminate the most time-consuming and problematic parts of this process. It assures total coverage for the care unit using business rules, schedule constraints, employee certifications, matching skill sets and customer relationships.
The best automated scheduling system can:
- Manage and accommodate a diverse workforce of full-time, part-time and temporary contract workers.
- Automatically assign the right health care professionals to the right patient based on the care giver’s skill set, certifications, and other assets.
- Match up healthcare professionals who have previous experience with a given patient or their family members.
- Submit profiles for each of your healthcare professionals with expirations of certificates, skill sets, etc. to ensure there are no hiccups in the field.
- Give instant insight into logistics in the field.
2. Create a personalized patient care experience
It’s no accident that patient experience is the first goal of the triple aim framework. Centering the customer experience in your care delivery model will allow you to gain valuable insights into both the needs of patients and strengths of caregivers, and to build a strong network of healthcare professionals who can meet the needs of diverse populations.
It is more than a matter of patient preference. As health organizations evaluate the health of communities, an awareness of differences is emerging. The health needs of men, for example, differ significantly from the health needs of women. Different populations have unique risk profiles. Social health, too, plays a significant role in health outcomes. More specialization and more focused care is better care and could look like:
- Building social and skill profiles can help make sure patients are matched with someone that has the right skills and the right social intelligence. Knowing the strengths of your team is key to building a responsible and agile workforce of caregivers. From an administrative end, that means immediately being able to pull up where workers are by region, availability, skill set and other criteria, as well as to track successful matches and other care details.
- Working closely with the family is an easy, inexpensive way to optimize the care provided, and to prevent avoidable incidents. The family is an important ally in home health care. Communicating with other members in the patient’s care-sphere, and providing training, support, and education is key to success. For the family, knowing when the professional is coming, being able to get in touch easily, learning the outcome of home visits, and being empowered to share concerns and observations requires that information be easily-but securely-shared between all involved parties.
- Travel routes are pain points, too. Home care services can use technology to optimize the routes of mobile workers to minimize travel costs, and, by extension, service costs, while providing timely, reliable service to patients in need.
Customer success means better health and lowered costs. Healthcare, unlike some services, requires collaboration between the patient and provider. Trust, rapport and mutual understanding are key to this success. Best practices in owning the patient experience call for an organization to instantly align the needs of the patients with the credentials and availability of your mobile workers. This will ensure a more positive customer experience from initial contact to the delivery of treatment. Patients will gain more transparency and confidence in their caregivers and organizations can be sure they dispatch the right professional for the best care, and that the providers are given the tools they need. With that foundation, the true work of improving the patient experience begins.
3. Eliminate scheduling hurdles for home healthcare professionals
When you empower the healthcare professional to succeed, both the professional and the patient are more satisfied with the outcomes, and the organization is more efficient, too.
The National Association for Homecare and Hospice recommends implementing point-of-care, GPS and EVV technology to streamline data collection and provide real-time communication in the field. Documentation is done in real-time, and workers, patients and administrators stay connected. Scheduling automation frees up administrators to focus on the clinical practice and organizational goals.
Visibility into the field helps keep workers and patients safe, too, with no time wasted pinpointing location when problems arise. The one size fits all approach to workforce management just isn’t effective when working with remote teams of full time, part time, and temporary 1099 workers, all of whom have different needs and expectations. Managing the needs of a diverse team of workers requires a sophisticated system that knows where people are and what they are doing in real time.
What does this look like in practice?
- Each professional has a mobile app, ensuring they have all the job details they need in time to prepare for the appointment.
- A scheduling app collects data about the appointment in real time while the worker is still in the field.
- Mobile workers can take pictures or video and send them immediately back to support staff in the office.
- If there are any delays or surprises in transit, the mobile worker can communicate with dispatchers as it happens.
Manual methods and spreadsheets just can’t gather and compare essential data from the field quickly enough to provide useful insights into what is working and what isn’t. State of the art, future-forward health organizations use integrated systems that empower workers and put the patient, and not paperwork, first.
4. Adopting point-of-care technology
The drive to reduce healthcare costs is a system wide approach, which is why aligning workers, patients and administrative processes will set your home health care organization up to succeed within the new framework. Adopting point-of-care technology and selecting a reliable software partner are key to success in this framework.
When capacity is tight, knowing where workers are, when they will finish up, and how long it takes to reach the next site can help schedulers create a seamless, pain-free process for both caregivers and patients.
A mobile app with scheduling capabilities meets the specifications of best practices in this area. This allows the leading healthcare providers to manage team performance with visual resource mapping, know who is where instantly with real time location tracking and answer inquiries with live travel updates.
Administrative costs drop when scheduling automation eliminates manual scheduling entries and evaluates resource planning to maximize utilization of mobile workers. Greater productivity lowers operating costs and clear visibility into mobile worker progress eliminates expensive disconnects.
The case for operational improvements to home healthcare scheduling
The need for robust solutions to these organizational home healthcare challenges is clear. Many healthcare organizations have already seen significant cost savings and productivity improvements by upgrading their approach to scheduling.
"Scheduling problems are not only solvable but solutions are also within reach of organizations of all types .... Technology can improve patient access to healthcare both directly and indirectly."
The US Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences’ 2015 report uncovered the following:
- Through relatively simple changes in scheduling, Kaiser Permanente increased efficiency and utilization above 85%. They lowered their cost of care using the Internet, mobile and video tech.
- The US will encounter a shortage of more than 130,600 physicians by 2025, without more intelligent scheduling of healthcare providers and staff.
- The privacy of patient information is governed by PHI, ePHI, HI PAA, HITECH and other programs. Communications about patients with mobile healthcare workers needs stronger security protections than traditional communication channels can provide.
Home healthcare organizations can position themselves as vital members of the larger healthcare continuum by providing efficient, high quality care. Optimizing caregiver-patient matches, successfully managing mobile workforces and improving efficiency and financial health are only possible with the right technology partner.
What to look for in a home healthcare scheduling solution
Ask the following questions as you look into technologies that can improve your scheduling processes and make life easier for you, your patients and your mobile workers:
- What are the security protocols covering the software’s connectivity? Any time workers need to communicate about sensitive patient data, the software becomes especially vulnerable. That’s why the rules governing connectivity are so highly regulated under oversight guidelines such as HIPAA.
- What is the provider’s tech strategy? Advanced use of AP ls to connect and communicate among platforms must be one of their critical concerns. APls are a more secure channel for transferring data such as provider insurance, payroll information, medical documents and information covered by government oversight.
- Can you create mobile worker profiles that include specifics on worker specializations and certifications?
- Can you track your workers in real-time along the route for better communication with the patient and office administrators?
- How much time will this software save your scheduler in coordinating and adjusting
- schedules, then communicating with everyone concerned about the latest arrangements?
- How does this solution optimize office staff time and efforts while lowering operating costs and improving the patient experience?
Hassle-free mobile workforce scheduling
Mobility is the future. Your patients and your workers know it. The next step is to bring yourmedical office scheduling software into the 21st century and make mobility easier for everyone.
For a growing number of organizations in the non-traditional field service industry, efficient and affordable solutions for mobile-workforce scheduling are helping mid-market firms move beyond outdated manual scheduling and into an era of speed, simplicity, and efficiency.
Skedulo’s powerful mobile-first application empowers your home healthcare professionals and administrators to work in a changing field with ease. With intelligent resource mapping, complex scheduling automation, instantaneous service updates, geo-tracking, and native integration with Salesforce.com, Skedulo empowers organizations worldwide to transform the way they manage and deploy their mobile workforces. By eliminating logistical limitations, and providing unparalleled on-demand scheduling tools and transparency, Skedulo allows companies to deliver on the promise of a world-class client experience, from service request to completion. Find out more by requesting a demo today