Why successful ‘patient-centered care’ programs depend on technology

The home healthcare industry is growing rapidly.

Research finds that global demand for the home healthcare market was valued at $228.90 billion in 2015, and is expected to generate revenue of 391.41 billion by 2021, growing at a CAGR of 9.40 percent between 2016 and 2021. Driven primarily by the aging population, the very nature of the industry is shifting and one important change is an increased focus on patient-centered care.

With a primary goal of improving individual health outcomes, patient-centered care supports the active collaboration and shared decision-making between patients, families and providers, to create a customized and comprehensive care plan. Providers are viewing patient care more holistically, which not only results in improved outcomes and patient experience, but also presents home healthcare providers with an opportunity to optimize and streamline internal processes, reducing costs and better allocating resources.

Due to tight margins and strict regulations, the industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies. But with consumers who have come to expect Amazon levels of service in all parts of their lives, the healthcare industry must keep up. In fact, patients (many of whom are elderly and vulnerable) depend on providers for the right treatment and services, entrusting them with what amounts to their lives, so small errors - including a late or missed appointment - can breach that trust. Sometimes, that error is a symptom of deeper inefficiencies within the company, which if left unchecked, decreases the quality of patient care over time (among other problems). To streamline internal processes and achieve the high level of care patients demand, home care providers must prioritize its investment in technology like Field Service Management Software to optimize operations.

Scheduling
While there are a number of areas that affect the quality of care, one of the most basic - and important - is scheduling. This is no easy task as it involves managing teams of workers, competing patient needs and other scheduling conditions contributing to a complex undertaking, but adding up to a high priority. Not only does a home healthcare worker need to be in the right place at the right time, but they need to have the right equipment for the patient’s case, and qualifications to administer the proper treatments. Add to this external factors that can affect scheduling like traffic and weather conditions that can make an HHA late for an appointment, schedules are bound to sometimes need reshuffling.

Utilizing FSM software to greatly improve scheduling decisions is a game changer for home health providers. Some FSM solutions utilize artificial intelligence to analyze historical data to make predictions about travel times and job durations, and allows for the quick reorganizing of resources when necessary. The data can also identify root causes of inefficiencies including details around what’s happening and why. For instance, estimating accurate travel time is not just an aspiration for providers, it’s essential for maximizing efficiency and reducing idle time, but with dozens of factors, it’s complex business. While the level of detail and visibility available for decision making can be daunting, employing an FSM solution with AI to automate and optimize scheduling decisions delivers significant benefits, including efficiency but more importantly, satisfied patients.

Mobile access
Providing quality care for patients also means attracting top talent, partially made possible by providing an engaging and modern work environment for employees. Engaged employees are more productive employees, and home healthcare workers are no different. The on-demand economy has impacted everyone, from patients who expect service at the push of a button, to employees who must be equipped with the right tools to respond appropriately. This shift in service expectations means that providers must arm staff with mobile technology - at a minimum. Coupled with the fact that the digitally native millennial generation represents the next wave of home healthcare workers, it stands to reason that innovation in this industry is critical - both to meet patient expectations and to ensure and attract top talent who are engaged and productive. Millennials, more than any other generation in the workforce, expect to work with the latest technologies and as the population ages, current home health workers will retire, replaced by younger workers. Home healthcare providers need to offer a work culture that keep employees happy, so they will stay engaged to contribute the very best care for patients that rely on their commitment to service.

While customer service and patient experience are not interchangeable priorities, satisfaction remains the ultimate goal. By focusing on the basics of service, like scheduling reliable appointments, and delivering adequate and informed in-home care, healthcare providers can meet - and exceed – patient’s expectations. Organizations that are focused on improving processes aided by artificial intelligence for automation and optimization of scheduling, and digitizing care delivery with mobile engagement stand to gain the biggest benefits.

Barrett Coakley is a product marketing manager at ClickSoftware. Coakley is a software product marketing professional with expertise in on-premise and (Software-as-a-Service) SaaS-based solutions for businesses of all sizes. His specialties include cloud and SaaS marketing, identity management and digital workflows. Before ClickSoftware, Coakley held positions at companies including Progress, Signiant, Virgin Pulse and ADP.

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