The idea of working remotely, with all its proven benefits, is not new. The shift towards more flexible working arrangements has been gaining momentum for several decades, but the healthcare sector was slow to adopt this rapidly growing trend.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that and shown that many healthcare staff can work effectively from home, provide patient service support, and remain compliant with industry regulations.
In home care, providers have been forced to transition office-based staff to work from home, implement new remote training and care solutions, and provide personal protective equipment for in-person visits, for the first time in many cases.
While these adaptations had to be implemented without delay and in less-than-ideal circumstances, a recent Home Care Benchmarking Study suggests remote working has resulted in many benefits and looks like it is here to stay.
Out of 900 home care agencies that participated in the study, 51% said they intend to keep new remote work options for staff, not just as a short-term response to COVID-19 but also as part of their long-term strategy, having seen the benefits. (Before, only 9.6% allowed remote working.) The benefits reported include:
- improved workplace safety
- staff and caregivers less stressed with lower rates of burnout
- increased staff efficiency and productivity
- higher staff and caregiver engagement and job satisfaction
- increased client/patient satisfaction
- reduction in overhead/operating costs (impacting bottom line)
- work flexibility has attracted more top talent, with higher retention levels.
However, not all home care agencies have reaped the benefits of remote working, and many have found the challenges it presents extremely difficult to navigate. Typically, these agencies have not adequately evaluated the specific roles that can effectively work remotely, set clear expectations, and enabled their staff with the right tools and technology.
Many home care agencies are still trying to function with their existing tech stack – or lack thereof – rather than implementing the software tools that will help streamline operations and fully support their remote teams. Without the right technology, managing a remote team requires an enormous amount of manual effort and can be extremely time-consuming, costly and ineffective.
Remote working, if done well, can really help your home care agency beat the competition, deliver the best practices in care, and elevate staff, caregiver and client engagement and satisfaction – all positively impacting your bottom line. And it is never too late to start doing it well!
To ensure that your home care agency is maximizing the benefits of remote working, your teams must have effective collaboration tools and technology to keep communication, information sharing and workflows smooth and seamless.
While it is possible to utilize a number of different, separate collaboration tools to achieve these aims – for example, online chat apps (Slack/Google Hangouts), file management/sharing tools (Google Drive/Microsoft OneDrive/Dropbox), rewards and recognition software (Vantage Circle/Cooleaf) and project management tools (Trello/Scoro) – the most successful home care agencies have opted for integrated tools in a complete home healthcare platform, such as SMARTcare Software.
Here are six ways the right software can support your business and help maximize the benefits of remote working:
1. Clear communication
With office staff and caregivers working remotely, home care agencies need to increase communications and ensure that all staff are continually involved, connected, and on the same page. A lack of clear, consistent communication can leave remote workers feeling isolated and disengaged from your agency’s goals and mission.
To maximize the benefits of remote working, you need to ensure your home care agency communicates effectively with all remote staff daily. This doesn’t have to feel like an impossible and time-consuming task if you have the right software in place, like SMARTcare’s mobile app. Compatible with all web browser, computer, smartphone and tablet operating systems, SMARTcare can be accessed by all agency staff, caregivers, clients and family members, anywhere and at any time.
Using the right collaboration software provides various ways for you to:
- streamline and organize your communication
- virtually check-in with staff and caregivers
- bring your team together
- communicate clearly with secure messaging and chat
- securely add and share documents and information
- support effective collaboration.
Clear and consistent communication is vital to keeping a disparate team connected and collaborating effectively. A platform specifically designed for home care, like SMARTcare software, ensures that your communication with remote staff and caregivers is always fast and fluid and accessible to all, through an online cloud-based information storage system, with HIPAA compliant chat and messaging, and a point-of-care mobile app.
Getting feedback from your team and really listening to them also remains vital in establishing a new communication plan that works to meet the needs of each individual as well as the team overall.
2. Clarity on goals and work processes
Remote work is typically less structured than non-remote work; therefore, setting clear goals and expectations is crucial. As well as outlining these to all team members, you also need to provide the necessary autonomy, tools and trust for your remote team to action them if you want to maximize the benefits of remote working.
Regular communication of your agency’s overall plan, along with any updates, should include:
- mission and vision
- yearly, monthly and weekly goals
- individual roles, responsibilities and expectations
- available resources and tools
- contact information and guidelines for support
- project or task ownership
- team availability (when, where and how to be reached).
Collaboration tools can be hugely beneficial here to publish your plans to your team and make them available in a document library for remote teams to access any time they need to. With the right tools, you can also reinforce the plans through message reminders that you can push to your team’s mobile app on their smartphones.
Using the right software to clarify goals, roles, and expectations will help facilitate your home care agency workflow and increase your employees’ engagement, morale, and satisfaction.
Home care agencies that effectively plan and schedule their goals, work processes and activities get more done and are more effective. This can be more of a challenge to coordinate and manage with remote working unless you have the right software tools in place.
Many agencies manage the process by juggling complex scheduling software, spreadsheets or time-consuming tasks to ensure workflows, caregiver shift cover, etc. However, you can save a lot of time and maximize the human connection by using integrated scheduling tools, which allow for:
- sharing public or personal calendars (to know all meetings, home visits, etc.)
- scheduling daily meetings, planning sessions and conferences
- providing automatic daily schedule updates
- tracking, managing and updating caregivers
- monitoring and updating information in real-time
- giving caregivers access to their schedules, shift details and care plans
- ensuring caregivers can receive and quickly respond to visit requests
- streamlining operations
- complete visibility of your business from a one-stop scheduling dashboard.
Daily, weekly and monthly scheduling allows remote teams to collaborate better and organize their workflows more efficiently and is critical to maximize the benefits of remote working and ensure your home care agency’s success.
4. Knowledge sharing
According to recent research by IDC, the cost of not being able to find the correct information at the right time can total around $3,300 per employee each year. This can frequently happen with remote working if the information is spread across email threads, text attachments and other disparate communication systems.
You can quickly resolve this by using the right software tools to pull disparate streams of information together into one unified space. This helps improve ROI and eliminates lost time while also ensuring all information is available in one place, and all documents can be shared securely.
Using SMARTcare’s mobile app, caregivers spend 64% less time on administrative tasks, finding documents and completing paper/telephone logging of care. Less time spent on administrative tasks leaves more time for providing better care and produces higher outcomes.
When your remote team has access to the right tools to share knowledge and information securely, collaboration becomes simple. Work is completed faster and more efficiently, and they are more engaged and satisfied in their roles.
The ability to monitor, track and measure progress is empowering to any employee, and this is no different for remote workers. It is also essential for home care business owners who can use the data to continually refine and improve processes to stay ahead of the competition and achieve maximum success.
Ideally, each staff member should have 2-3 key metrics that track the key outputs or results of their roles. Having these metrics takes on new importance with remote teams because they can provide a substantial level of accountability and help staff and caregivers to focus on what’s most important. If you chose your metrics well, this can alleviate much of the stress of keeping employees on task when they’re working remotely.
While there are many time tracking, task management or activity tracking tools available to help you oversee what is being achieved, maximizing the benefits of remote working necessitates using a complete home care platform, set up expressly to track and manage remote staff and caregivers.
For example, using sales/marketing automation tools (like those included with SMARTcare) you can quickly see how your sales teams are moving client leads through your agency’s sales process, any stalled or non-actioned leads, and receive notifications when leads change status. You can also notify multiple individuals quickly when a new lead comes in ensuring your team is the first to respond.
6. Feedback, recognition and rewards
Appreciating and rewarding your caregivers and staff is known to have powerful, long-lasting effects and is a great way to set your home care agency apart from the rest. Employees who feel their work is recognized and appreciated are proven to be more engaged, work harder and be more loyal than those who don’t.
With remote working, feedback, recognition and rewards become even more important, as – without the right tools – it is more likely for remote staff to feel disconnected from your agency brand and feel unrecognized and underappreciated.
With remote working, leaders have to consider new ways to recognize and reward their teams digitally. While it can be challenging for those managing remote workers to identify where feedback, recognition and reward are needed, the right software tools can help.
If done well and supported with the right software tools, remote working can really help your home care agency deliver best practices in care, elevate client/caregiver engagement, satisfaction and retention, and, ultimately, beat the competition.
A recent Siemens Healthineers paper states: “The benefits of remote work are significant – for patients, for employers, for healthcare employees, and for business partners. An understanding of these benefits provides a compelling argument for why remote work solutions should be integrated into the strategic plans, infrastructure, and workflows of healthcare organizations.”
With many home care agencies opting to keep new remote work options for staff as part of their long-term strategy, leaders must ensure their teams are equipped with effective tools that empower them to do their jobs well and keep communication and collaboration effortless and seamless.
Every home care agency is unique, and what works for one provider’s staff might not necessarily work for yours. Learn from your experience, and fine-tune your approach to find a balance that works best for you and your staff.
If you are planning to keep remote work options but are not currently using a complete home healthcare platform, call us to discuss how SMARTcare Software can help your agency maximize the benefits of remote working in 2021.