Maintaining a winning home care schedule requires a lot of skill. It is crucial to put the right people in the right places at the right times, as it can drastically increase client and caregiver satisfaction, directly impacting your bottom line.
Smartcare’s dynamic caregiver scheduling app makes it easy for home care agencies to succeed, with automation and advanced caregiver-client matching tools included in its all-in-one care platform.
Hear from Smartcare Subject Matter Expert, Katie Ortell, as she shares her secrets on how she became a savvy scheduler using Smartcare’s award-winning home care application.
Q: Can you give us a little bit of insight into your background and how it relates to home care scheduling?
A: About 10 years ago, I made the decision to switch careers. I’ve always wanted to work in healthcare, and I knew with the little bit of personal care experience that I had, I would probably be starting at the entry level. I took a position as a scheduler at a home care agency, and then over the next 10 years, I made my way through the ranks. I ended up owning the agency until about a year ago when I sold the company and became a Subject Matter Expert at Smartcare.
Q: What is the role of a caregiver? Can you describe what they can & can’t do?
A: In this industry, the role of a caregiver can be very broad. In my personal experience, I have worked with home health aides, certified nursing aides (CNAs), personal care attendants (PCAs), and homemakers. We also offered companion care, so the caregivers’ responsibilities ranged across a pretty wide spectrum. Depending on their title and any appropriate certifications or training experience, that would limit or expand what they were capable of assisting people with.
For instance, a homemaker will primarily focus on independent activities of daily living (IADLs), such as making a bed or doing laundry. People who have received additional training, and are qualified to provide assistance with personal care, would focus more on bathing and dressing and helping an individual actually get in and out of bed or to and from the bathroom.
Q: What is the role of a scheduler? Can you describe what they’re responsible for?
A: Across the spectrum, it can vary. For agencies that provide a wide range of services and levels of care, the scheduler will have to get more involved. Schedulers are responsible for matching clients with adequate caregivers, and what hours are needed on both ends. They will need to know the different types of services required and the level of assistance needed, and then be matched with a caregiver that has those hours available and the qualifications necessary.
For instance, the level of assistance the individual would require would determine which level of qualification the caregiver would need to be sent into the home. If a client just needed help with the little things around the house, then I could send a homemaker for about an hour or two for a day, or even a week. When you have someone who’s a little more progressed in their disease process, then it would require somebody with a lot more qualifications to be able to assist them with more personal care activities. These can be provided at a more prolonged time frame – so maybe 6 hours, 12 hours, or even 24-hour care.
Q: What is the importance of successfully matching clients & caregivers?
A: It’s extremely important for a scheduler to get to know their clients, as well as their caregivers, and match them adequately for long-term satisfaction and retention. It’s important to take into account the experience that the individual has had, whether they are familiar with an individual’s disease process, if they understand the progression of the disease, and if they are able to assist that individual throughout the different levels of that process.
It’s also important to be cognizant of personalities, as it is a huge compatibility factor. For instance, if you had an individual who is more introverted, possibly sending someone a little more extroverted might not necessarily be a harmonious match. Not to mention the caregiver’s personal life, their personal responsibilities, and their family dynamics — all of that needs to be taken into account when building the schedule and matching caregivers to clients.
Utilizing an intelligent scheduling platform like Smartcare — with advanced caregiver/client matching algorithms — makes this process so much quicker and easier by creating automated recommendations when scheduling.
Q: Getting the right caregiver/client match is extremely important. How did you match caregivers & clients?
A: When successfully matching caregivers and clients, it’s always best practice to get to know your staff. This is a very personal industry, and you are assisting people in a very vulnerable state. Aside from getting to know everybody — which can be very hard to do as your agency grows — it’s extremely beneficial to have tools in place that will allow you to ensure that the qualifications of the individual you’re sending into the home are appropriate, as well as that they are a good personality match.
Smartcare includes assessment tools and sophisticated matching algorithms, so you are able to assure the family you are sending the right, qualified individual that will get along with their family member.
Q: Complaints happen — How did you handle complaints and conflict – from either the client or caregiver end?
A: The most important thing to be considerate of when scheduling is consistency — provide consistent schedules, consistent caregivers, and consistent communication. Across the board, communication is the biggest frustration when it comes to scheduling. It is so important to have a way to alert a family member and/or the client themselves that there’s been an adjustment.
Additionally, have a way to communicate back to caregivers. Anytime that you can take advantage of additional information being communicated will ensure that everyone is always on the same page. That is the key to being successful — just stick to consistency and constant communication.
Q: What are the benefits of automating schedules?
A: Providing a consistent schedule is beneficial for a multitude of reasons. First, the client can come to depend on you and your staff. In some cases, your staff is the only interaction that the individual might have with someone, so they do truly rely on you, and consistency is key in that regard — it builds the relationship and trust between the caregiver and client.
Second, having a consistent schedule for your caregivers makes it easier for them to manage their personal lives and is going to ensure that they stay with you for the long term. It helps with retention because they know what to count on, they know how many hours a week they’re going to get, and they know what their schedule is.
The third piece would be for financial purposes. Automating scheduling allows you to accommodate and assist more individuals and create a consistent schedule. Since your schedule is already built, you know where your caregivers will be, and you know where your openings are with the clientele that you already have on your roster.
When bringing on more clients, having consistent scheduling is very attractive to them as it fosters their confidence in your agency and your staff. Consistent scheduling also gives you the ability to budget effectively and make more secure financial decisions for your agency.
Financially, automating your scheduling just makes sense. You are able to make really active decisions on the growth of your organization with consistent, automated scheduling.
Smartcare’s Auto-Scheduling feature is designed to help create and manage caregiver schedules automatically, based on a variety of factors such as caregiver availability, client needs, and other scheduling requirements. This can save time and reduce errors that may occur when scheduling is done manually. Learn more »
Q: When scheduling ahead of time, how far in advance should you look?
A: Scheduling for home care can be very difficult because you are dealing with individuals at all different stages and phases of their disease process. From an administrator’s perspective, it makes sense to have a way to push out a consistent schedule on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Building out a continuous schedule can be challenging, but having a way to consistently push out a recurring schedule would be very beneficial for you and your caregivers. Start by selecting a future time frame that works for you and you feel comfortable with and utilize Smartcare’s automated scheduling system. In the end, you will be saving a lot of time and headaches.
Q: As a scheduler, are there tools that you’ve found to be beneficial?
A: In the scheduling world, I did have the opportunity to take advantage of several different tools and platforms over the years. I started out very simply with a Microsoft Word schedule, moved into Excel, and then eventually moved on to scheduling software. They did what we needed them to at the time, but they could never really handle a beginning-to-end lifecycle of a patient or client like Smartcare can.
Smartcare was really able to allow me to interact with my clients and caregivers from the initial point of referral all the way through the entire relationship. With my organization, Smartcare was instrumental in managing my schedule efficiently, communicating with my clients and their family members, communicating with my staff, employee retention and recruitment, and managing all of the different revenue streams in one platform. And then there were financial benefits as well — the price was extremely cost-efficient.
Q: What was your experience with Smartcare like?
A: The implementation was surprisingly fast. But the customer success team also took it slow enough to make sure that I understood all of the different facets of the platform. As I grew and started using it more, I continued to learn more about the software. The platform is always evolving, and there were always new features being released that just made every day even better.
Q: Are there any other words of wisdom that you want schedulers to know?
A: If I could give any advice to someone who is scheduling for a home care agency, it would be this:
Remember the good work that you are doing. You are helping those who need it most, and in some cases, they are in a position where it’s very difficult for them to ask for that help. Be compassionate, flexible, kind, and understanding — not only of where the client is coming from but where the family is coming from. It’s a very challenging role, but know that you are an integral part of making somebody’s day, week, and life better. There are no words for the gratification you get from that.
Q: What do you like most about working with business owners & schedulers through your new role at Smartcare?
A: When I made the decision to leave my home care agency and transition to a role at Smartcare, it felt like I was walking away from doing the important work on the front lines. When I get to talk to an agency owner or an administrator and help them solve their problems using Smartcare, it really feels like I’m still on the front lines with them. I truly feel that we are a team and we are working together to do that good work.
Smart Scheduling with Smartcare Software
Successfully matching clients with caregivers can significantly help home care agencies thrive. With Smartcare’s exclusive machine learning technology, smart scheduling aligns the caregiver’s work preference with a client’s specific needs. And Smartcare’s scheduling functionality goes far beyond basic characteristics like “non-smoker” or “likes dogs.” Smartcare’s unique matching keeps your caregivers and clients happy, increasing your client and caregiver retention.
To learn more about Smartcare’s all-in-one scheduling platform and EMR, request a free demo today!