Helping Home Healthcare Agencies Meet the Growing Demands of Baby Boomers

May 15, 2019 Scott O'Connell

Baby Boomers and a Female Home Healthcare Agent

The goal of retirement is an aspiration that many adults strive for throughout their entire working lives. Once retirement becomes a reality, many are faced with critical choices as to where they want to live out their remaining years. 

According to a recent TD Ameritrade survey, 42% of Americans plan to downsize once they reach retirement with only 6% of that population planning on moving into a senior living community. 

Conversely, an AARP Home and Community Preference Survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that 77% would prefer to stay in their own homes after they retire for as long as they’re physically able. 

No matter what the long-term housing decision is, or the reasons to move or stay, people must factor in a multitude of options that will best suit their needs as they age. One factor that must not be overlooked is access to and availability of quality healthcare for the aging Boomer population. If and when retirees takes ill, become debilitated, or can no longer handle the daily tasks needed to function and maintain independence, they need to know about their healthcare options to help them through (and after) recovery. 

For some, assisted living may be the best or only choice.  For many, however, home healthcare may be the best option due to the wide array of healthcare services that can be administered in a patient’s home for illness and injury, including but not limited to: short-term nursing, therapy, rehabilitation care, patient and caregiver education, and help with daily activities.   

It is a decision that will certainly define how they receive sustained care throughout their aging life. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are increasing their numbers nearly exponentially -- according to AARP, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65-years-old EVERY day. 

“Not only are we seeing more people choosing homecare, but we are also seeing more families opting for “companion care” not presently reimbursable by Medicare, though the winds of change may be coming. Companion care under the current Medicare laws (whether provided by a family member or companion care company) is not a reimbursable expense. Under Medicaid, there are now many states that will pay family members as caregivers. This type of legislation can keep loved ones at home, without bankrupting the family.” - Jim Hand BSN, MBA RN

As that happens, the competition among home healthcare agencies will increase. This adds to the pressure these agencies already undergo to deliver the highest quality care possible. Delivering less means facing the risk of losing patients to competitors.

Challenges facing home healthcare agencies 

Mobile health worker and elderly female patient at home

Home healthcare providers can help patients manage day-to-day life by providing the support that keeps a patient’s routine as “normal” as possible and helps them continue to live their lives independently, and hopefully get them on the road to recovery. The aging Baby Boomer population, however, is a factor that will increase the pressure these agencies face from the following challenges. 
Lack of transparency and poor communication: Poor communication between patient, provider, and caregiver leads to a fragmented view of the individual healthcare journey, which results in a poor member experience:

  • The caregiver assigned is not aligned with the primary physician when it comes to medication administration, appointment scheduling, or the number of times physical therapy exercises need to be directed. 
  • Family members can be at fault when they don’t update the caregiver if an episode or setback happened when the caregiver was off duty, or if a reaction to medication was not brought to the provider’s attention. 
  • The agencies themselves might have overpromised yet underdelivered on the level of care that they claimed they could provide. 

All of these scenarios and others can lead to a poor patient and member experience. 
Lack of experience and the proper expertise: Too many agencies don’t have employees with certifications to perform services other than menial jobs like preparing food, bathing, or distributing medications. Many caregivers are not experienced in dealing with the challenges that some illnesses and injuries may present. 

The consequences of having an unskilled or inexperienced caregiver can result in setbacks to the recovery of their patients and even death. To ensure patients receive the best possible care from the best people, agencies need to employ more registered nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and therapists, and not just personal care aides. 
Having too little or too much technology:
Technological advancements in the industry are moving at a pace quicker than home healthcare agencies can train their staff to utilize and adopt. 

  • Some companies are stuck with antiquated software, or are still using paper for reporting that is time-consuming and inefficient.
  • Working within multiple systems to ensure they are staying on top of doctor’s orders and family requests can be burdensome to a caregiver, increasing the chances of making a mistake. This also can distract them from doing their job of actually providing patient care. 
  • Working with antiquated systems or manually filling out paperwork by hand can be time-consuming, increase the chances of errors, and again reduces the amount of time the caregiver should be spending with their patients. 

A home healthcare agency must implement the technology to provide the proper level of care without overburdening employees with hard-to-use systems. 

High turnover/workforce shortages: Unemployment rates are at historical lows, an issue that is not unique to the home healthcare industry. It is a real challenge to overcome nonetheless.

  • In many cases, wages are less than desirable for home healthcare workers, and oftentimes workers leave to seek out other means of employment that provide higher salaries. This is also what causes the vicious cycle of not having staff adequately trained on technological advances. 
  • Demand for qualified clinicians means that agencies will be competing for skilled practitioners throughout the entire healthcare industry.

Appirio’s solution to home healthcare’s challenges 

Middle aged man in pale blue scrubs holding a tablet and caring for an elderly man

Baby Boomers face economic, financial, and health challenges that will impact and influence the decisions that will shape the remaining years of their lives. To help your health organization stand apart from the competition, you must be equipped with the latest innovations and technology to provide the right level of care. Appirio’s Patient Care Management Bolt is our latest solution aimed at supercharging patient engagement and enabling mobile health teams to provide exceptional care. Based on real-life lessons and insights gleaned from our award-winning work with Ashfield Healthcare, this Bolt provides a solution to the problems patients and health workers encounter every day. 

Solutions for Patients:

  • Fast and easy patient onboarding – A simple, guided walkthrough puts patients in the driver’s seat, enabling them to onboard at their own pace and freeing up home health workers from manually filling out paper forms or entering information into disjointed systems. It even allows patients to schedule their first in-home appointment with just a few clicks, swipes, or taps. 
  • Scheduling made simple - Give patients greater visibility into their upcoming and past appointments, and the ability to integrate a personal calendar and make future appointments with ease. 
  • Increased patient and family engagement – More visibility = more accountability. Patients and their families can keep track of appointments, goal setting and tracking, prescriptions, and provider communications in one place.  
  • Real-time communication - patients don’t have to stay on hold for hours or get buried in a sea of emails, mobile-empowered health workers can see their message history and respond to patients in real-time, whenever, wherever. 
  • Drive desired health outcomes – Collaborative care is more comprehensive and patient-centered. 

Solutions for Mobile Health Workers and Health Organizations:

  • Manage mobile worker scheduling - Help mobile workers conquer their days by giving them full visibility into where they’re going, who they’re connecting with, what they're responsible for, and more.
  • Real-time access to patients on any device - Health workers often spend their days going from one home to another and don’t always have time to update notes or connect with patients until they get back to the office. The Appirio Bolt and Field Service Lightning supercharges collaboration and communication between patients and health workers by making staff members more agile and responsive on the go. Health workers will have access to their patients’ history and progress throughout the entire healthcare journey.
  • Free up health organization resources from performing rote tasks - Give your employees access to tools for amplifying engagement and satisfaction and increasing collaboration and productivity to put their focus back where it belongs: patients. 
  • Empower care coordinators outside your organization - Care Coordinators outside your health organization can easily nominate a patient for care and your organization’s care program.

To learn more about the Appirio Patient Care Management bolt, talk to a Health and Life Sciences expert today. 

Jim Hand BSN, MBA, RN contributed to this blog. He is a Partner at Appirio working with Payer and Provider organizations. Jim is an experienced clinical technologist, healthcare thought leader, and patient technology evangelist. 

About the Author

Scott O'Connell

Scott O'Connell is the Senior GTM Manager of Appirio's Health and Life Science vertical. He is an experienced marketing professional with a successful track record of helping companies bring products to market, improving their brand awareness, and fostering customer engagement.

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