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Viventium Home Care Agencies Share Their COVID-19 Experiences

04-27-2020
Nadia Hercules

As a leader in the Home Care industry, you not only have to care for your business but also for the lives of your patients, who are among the most at risk from this pandemic, as well as your employees and their families.

We asked a handful of our home care clients what it’s like running an agency in the midst of this crisis, and we thought it would be a great idea to pass along what they shared. As the current epicenter of the pandemic, the Tri-State area has been experiencing what less-impacted States are likely to experience in the coming weeks. If your region isn’t currently dealing with the worst of the pandemic yet, you can try to better prepare for what’s coming by learning from these tips and experiences, which we distilled into three categories: technology, business and patient care, and caregivers and safety.

Business Continuity

Technology | HR | Remote Work

Due to the pandemic, more and more agencies are turning to technology to keep their operations running. During this emergency, communication is key!

In order to quickly adapt to the current challenges, agencies that have messaging set up through their AMS, HCM, VOIP, and Cisco systems and that maintain accurate email lists are in better positions. Being able to communicate, deliver messages, and discuss safety-related concerns with both patients and caregivers is very important.

Having the right tools in place can help agencies run their business and minimize workload so they can focus on the most important matters. Specialized tools, like Viventium’s HR Advisory services, have helped agencies structure communication to limit exposure. During a time like this, it’s important to focus on protecting your business, employees, and patients as much as possible. Additionally, this tool also limits the amount of time an administrator or manager has to do their own research, which can take a good amount of the workload off your plate.

In order to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration has passed an array of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with maximum flexibility. In the home care industry, telehealth can be provided within 30 days of care as long as it’s part of the patient’s plan of care and does not replace necessary in-person visits as ordered on the plan of care. However, even though CMS allows telehealth services, not all agencies are equipped with the technology to do so. Furthermore, even though some staff can work remotely, not all can. Agencies would need to make sure their staff have a strong understanding of their web-based systems that can be accessed via remote offices, like scheduling, time, billing, payroll, HR, and in-service trainings, as well as ensure their staff have internet access and mobile technology.

Patient Care

Demographics| Type of Cases

Overall, whether the volume of business has decreased or increased largely depends on the location and type of services that are offered. For example, in New York and Pennsylvania, family caregiver services are doing great, but it’s a completely different story in states like New Jersey that do not have a family caregiver program. Other parts of the business that have been doing well are longer-term, chronic, hospice, and live-in cases, since these more serious situations require caregiver support. However, shorter and less serious cases, such as companion services or those that are 4 hours per day or less, have been more difficult to maintain.

This is because the patient, caregiver, patient’s family, or caregiver’s family do not see the value of the service as worth the risk of COVID-19 exposure for such a short service time. Additionally, client cases that are in cities that require public transportation have seen a dramatic decline due to physical distancing measures and fear of exposure to the virus. On the other hand, rural and suburban cases make social distancing easier and have not seen as much of a negative impact. For example, Bronx cases are declining while Westchester County (NY) cases have been stable.

Caregivers

Safety| Transportation

Caregivers are currently in tough situations. They tend to populations among the most at risk and have to take extra precautions for their patients’ safety as well as for the safety of their families and themselves. If they get sick or have to self-isolate, their patients may be left without care, but they also face an increased chance of contracting and spreading the illness while continuing to work. These fears have prompted both caregivers and patients to cancel, and patients that do need new caregivers can be even more uncomfortable than usual being introduced to someone not only unfamiliar but also potentially contagious.

Some of the leaders of the agencies we talked to mentioned that there are also a lot of short-term issues, especially for agencies requiring outside assistance from sources not currently operational. This can especially limit their ability to provide service for new cases, as lack of external assistance hasn’t impacted their existing patients as heavily.

In order to help protect the health of their patients and caregivers, these agency leaders recommend making sure safety is top priority, and they suggest the following:

  • Send aides via Uber, rather than public transportation, if they need to get to a case. Even though it costs more, it proves you are willing to spend for increased safety.
  • Make sure you are well stocked with masks, PPE, sanitizers, etc.
  • Utilize messaging to reduce exposure. For example, set up automated messages indicating when a caregiver shows up for a case, and have them clock in BEFORE entering the home. Require them to indicate that they have not been coughing, sneezing, feverish, or feeling ill in recent days nor knowingly exposed to anyone who has, and have the patient confirm the same; only if neither have been symptomatic or knowingly exposed should the caregiver enter that residence.
  • Provide mobile trainings on best practices for cleanliness.
  • If a patient or caregiver is feeling sick or has been exposed to someone who is sick, make sure your caregiver and patient both self-isolate for 14 days.

While the total impact this pandemic will cause is still unknown, home care agencies will have to remain adaptable in order to serve our communities and remain viable businesses. When it comes to keeping up with new legislation, clients are using the resources that Viventium provides. Most popular resources include:

Special thanks to all our clients that shared their stories with us, we continue to appreciate all the work that you are doing. To show our gratitude for the work being done by healthcare workers we created a page dedicated to thanking our health services heroes on the front lines.

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