Without doubt, due to the COVID-19 crisis, political upheavals and changes in the legal landscape, the home care market looks very different from how it started out in 2020.
There has been a great deal of uncertainty and many significant challenges to contend with, and while home-based care is more valued and appreciated than ever, by the rest of the health care industry, providers still need to address ongoing challenges to thrive and have a successful 2021.
With the demand for home care services still on the rise, it’s hard to imagine that home care agencies won’t all thrive this year, but the truth is that many home care businesses struggle to stand out from the crowd and reach profitability. The success rate for home care agencies, in an already competitive environment, is not particularly high.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm, energy and commitment that many bring to their home care agencies do not automatically translate into business success. However, there are plenty of catalysts that can vastly improve your possibility of growth and success in the year ahead and help you avoid some common pitfalls.
There are obvious business areas that you need to ensure are stable and secure, such as strategic planning, funding, staff retention, marketing and financial management. However, the mark of a truly successful business during times of uncertainty is its leader’s ability to quickly adapt to change and make the most of any new opportunities that present themselves. It is time for leaders to really step up and lead their teams.
Both during and after the COVID-19 crisis, the best success will favor those that can adapt, innovate and lead. Home care agencies that can adjust their business operations accordingly, and keep up with the broad regulatory changes, will have a huge advantage moving forward. Equally, those resistant to the business changes of the pandemic and post-pandemic era are running a considerable risk of being left behind.
Whether you are working towards consolidation or growth this year, here are 6 top tips to help you succeed.
6 Top Tips for Home Care Agency Success in 2021
1. Gather data on what your agency can provide
In a recent webinar, Erik Madsen (CEO at Home Care Pulse), stated that during the COVID-19 crisis, business data has become the new currency in home care. If you want to be able to market well, work with professional referral partners, work with new pay resources that are coming out, etc., you need to streamline how you gather and document key data points, including:
- Client pipeline
- Fall prevention
- Hospital readmissions
- Client satisfaction
- Caregiver satisfaction.
People want data that clearly shows what your agency is able to provide and the kind of impact your agency can have. Putting systems in place to record this data, clearly document it and have it readily available to share is crucial for success in 2021.
If you don’t already have an automated system in place for collecting key data about your home care operations, there are simple solutions you can set up, such as SMARTcare’s software. KPI tracking and dashboards give you a top-level look at how your agency is performing over time and the ability to drill down in areas needing more attention. Risk events, hospitalizations and satisfaction become easy to track with graphic data assets.
As a bonus, you can also use this data to compare your performance against competitors and your past performance to identify areas for improvement. A recent MIT study showed that companies that relied on ‘data-driven decision making’ achieved 5-6% higher productivity than those who didn’t. By regularly reviewing your data, you gain a wealth of valuable information for improving your business.
2. Value your team
There is no question that your employees are the most valuable assets of your business. Any home care agency not placing a high importance on their caregivers and staff will pay a heavy price in the long run. Without motivated and dedicated employees, your business is destined to remain mediocre at best.
Valuing your team and achieving caregiver satisfaction is not accomplished by accident, but rather through focused and deliberate actions. Research shows that in 2021 caregivers still value working for a good employer above all else – so be a destination where caregivers want to be, where they feel valued and appreciated, and where they will choose to stay for the long haul.
Two of the biggest drivers for caregivers in 2020 were wages and workplace safety. Home care agencies that have put COVID protocols in place, trained staff properly in those protocols and provided PPE along with any other safety measures remain in a far stronger position in 2021.
Ensure you are providing the tools, training and support your caregivers and staff need to work remotely and safely, and to be comfortable with any new processes and procedures. These are all going to prove hugely beneficial for attracting and retaining staff (and clients) throughout the year ahead.
People make your agency, and a strong, committed and agile team will make all the difference to your success with the challenges and opportunities that 2021 will bring.
3. Maintain a cohesive company culture
A culture that embraces the vision of your agency positively affects how your staff work and act. Positive company culture is essential for success, proven to make employees feel valued, with a sense of belonging and working towards a common goal. Not only does this create loyalty and commitment, but it also increases your company value and contributes to its success.
Home care agencies with a cohesive company culture deliver high-quality care services, create a robust client-centric culture with their staff and have a clear focus on the processes and services their clients need. Use the tools in your home care software to reinforce that culture and fully engage your caregivers.
This has become particularly important during the pandemic, where manual/in-person contact and care has had to shift to a larger portion of staff working from home, and some care being provided remotely. Through a strong company culture and consistently engaging your team – using tools like secure chat and messaging – you can make sure clear communication channels remain open for everyone involved, improving both client and caregiver satisfaction.
4. Maintain a strong client focus – and consider specializing
In general, reports show that client satisfaction is significantly higher than pre-COVID – the bar has been raised for taking care of your clients! Agencies that have figured out new ways to do this well during the pandemic are in a strong position.
In addition to focusing on giving the very best care to your existing clients, now is an ideal time to find new clients too.
Home care is becoming ever more popular since the COVID-19 crisis began, as people do not want their loved ones in high-risk hospitals, rehab centers or nursing homes. Even though the industry is growing rapidly, it is also becoming too crowded. You need to have a strategy in place that sets you apart when marketing to potential clients and professional referral sources.
Consider specializing. For example, new patients have been generated by the COVID situation, those who no longer consider nursing homes or hospitals viable options for receiving the care they need. There are also sicker patients who have stopped receiving care or are awaiting treatment/surgery due to infection risk.
Who is taking care of the people with co-morbidities who can’t be in health facilities due to the high risk with COVID-19 – including CHF, COPD, diabetes, COVID? Agencies looking to expand into these niche areas and specialize in new areas of need will be set up for success moving through 2021.
5. Keep marketing
A recent industry survey, on how the pandemic has affected home care agencies, showed that one in five agencies decided to reduce or stop their marketing and advertising activities. This is one of the biggest mistakes that home care companies are making.
It might sound counter-intuitive to spend money on marketing during a recession, but health care doesn’t pay any regard to what the economy is doing. Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, dementia, hip replacements, strokes, cancers, falls, COPD, for example, don’t stop because of what is going on in the economy. They are still happening, and there are still millions of people that need home care help.
To ensure your home care agency’s success throughout 2021, you will need to actively find new clients and referral sources. The current situation does make marketing and advertising more challenging, but you need to get creative and find new ways to market your business virtually, for example:
- stay in touch with referral sources online or via apps
- sponsor community activities remotely
- attend networking events online and/or set up and run your own
- step-up your online presence, through your website and social media
- use local newspapers/magazines to place ads
- create short videos to promote new services, safety measures, etc.
Despite the many changes in the last 12 months, home care still remains a ‘relationship’ business. Now, more than ever, you need to keep building and sharing – let people know you are there and open for business.
6. Utilize technology
Those home care agencies using technology to be more efficient during the pandemic are going to be the winners in 2021 and beyond.
Investing in things that can help your agency make money more efficiently are vital to agency growth and success. If your agency hasn’t yet invested in a home care management software system, like SMARTcare, you are likely losing both time and money.
SMARTcare software is designed specifically for the home care market, to give you a competitive edge to grow your business, retain your caregivers and provide high-quality client satisfaction. Other benefits include:
- data collection and documentation
- more time to focus on your strategic planning and execution
- improved organization and productivity
- continued compliance
- saves money
- sales and marketing tools.
While it can be easy for an agency to commit to being more technology-driven, you need to be sure that your frontline staff is introduced to any new tools and processes in ways that make them feel comfortable. It is essential to make sure your team is confident with any changes or adjustments you decide to introduce.
Every action taken in a business will have some consequence. When making a decision, you need to carefully consider what will produce the best results for the short term and the long term. To be standing firm by the end of the year, you must direct your energies to those areas that have the most potential to produce favorable business results for you and your team.
Many experts in the home care industry predict there will be greater divisions in home care agencies in the year ahead. Some agencies will stay the same size and consolidate, some will go out of business entirely, and others will build and grow.
Now is the ideal opportunity to become one of the more prominent players. Have a clear vision and head for it, leading your team to a successful 2021.