As a home care provider, you know that home care is an industry built on solid relationships – where trust is essential and effective communication is key.
Providing access to information and communicating clearly and consistently with both your clients and their families are vital ingredients for successful client and family-centered home care.
These two components should be at the top of your priority list in 2023 if you’re looking to build and sustain client and family satisfaction and increase retention. Quality two-way communication also offers many additional benefits, which include:
- Keeping families informed about their loved one’s care, providing peace of mind
- Coordinating care services effectively and keeping family members engaged
- Promoting the health literacy of clients’ family members
- Ensuring any misunderstandings or potential problems are quickly identified and resolved, improving clients’ safety (and reassuring their families)
- Boosting trust, confidence, and loyalty to your agency (increasing Lifetime Customer Value)
- Improving office staff and caregiver job satisfaction and engagement, increasing employee retention
- Enhancing your business reputation, strengthening referrals, and generating positive reviews.
Improving communications with your clients’ family members, especially – with the clients’ permission, of course – has been shown to be favorable not only for your clients but also for your office staff and caregivers and, ultimately, your bottom line.
However, we understand that keeping clients’ family members in the communication loop can be incredibly time-consuming, especially for those home care providers without a well-thought-out family communication plan. Here we offer six simple steps you can implement in 2023 to create more effective communications to enhance family connections.
1. Assess your current family communications
Before you can begin working on a successful family communication plan, you’ll need to assess your current engagement efforts. What is working well, and, more importantly, what is not?
2. Find out what your clients’ families actually want
Part of your assessment process should include asking families for direct feedback to understand their pain points with your current communication methods. You can use a simple feedback form for this.
Find out their preferred communication methods and the frequency of communication they’d like to receive. Would they prefer to receive care information and messages via texts, email, phone calls, or videoconference, for example? Would they like daily care updates, or is twice a week sufficient?
You can also find out the most convenient times for communication to fit in with each family’s schedule and agree on a point person for contact within the family.
Gathering this feedback provides valuable data to help you fine-tune your plan, create better relationships, and boost families’ confidence in your home care business. You’ll already be demonstrating better communication by giving your clients’ families a voice, listening to their feedback, and taking their needs into account.
3. Think about what else you can communicate to add value
In addition to considering what information your clients’ family members want, it can also be helpful to think about what your home care organization wants/needs to communicate to add value and encourage family engagement.
Try to find a balance. Quality over quantity is often key.
Of course, families want to be involved in their loved one’s care and receive timely care updates, and your home care business serves as an essential point of contact for this. But how can you add value to your communications? For example, could you begin sharing more information about planned activities, caregiver visiting schedules, medication logs, appointment reminders, and health education, or simply send a quick snapshot of their loved one enjoying a favorite hobby, meal, or day out?
Can you provide specialized communications to only those families who need that information? For example, families of new clients, families of dementia clients, families who live far away and rarely see their loved ones in person? By segmenting families, you can make your communications more personal, which can help you develop more impactful, meaningful connections and engagement.
Following these first three steps means you’ll have a clear picture of the current state of your family communications and know what your clients’ families need. Now you’re in a stronger position to start making sound, data-driven decisions to develop a winning family communication plan.
4. Set up effective communication channels – embrace technology
With so many potential communication outlets, developing a schedule to keep your family communications well organized and create a cadence that strikes a good balance is essential. You only want to send relevant and timely information to ensure each family is well informed, while ensuring the staff responsible for delivering your communication plan have the time and resources needed to do a great job.
Most of your challenges in setting up effective communication channels, scheduling, and managing your efforts can easily be resolved by leveraging the right communication technology.
Replacing manual processes with the right technology solutions – that support fast, secure mobile communications – can significantly improve communication between your home care business and your clients’ entire circle of care, including their families.
Smartcare Software’s Family Portal is just one example of how technology can quickly improve family communications. Equipped with advanced communication tools, integration with Google Home® and Alexa®, and providing on-demand mobile updates and alerts, Smartcare gives your staff, clients, and families everything they need to say connected and engaged – anytime and anywhere, including:
- Tools to record, organize and share client care documentation and updates
- Video conferencing
- Medication management/reminders
- Alerting systems
- Scheduling tools
- Real-time access to care information
- Mobile apps with secure messaging
Ongoing investment in proven communication technology can be a game-changer if you want to increase your staff, client, and family satisfaction and retention.
5. Set clear expectations with clients’ families and set healthy boundaries
For many families, moving a loved one into long-term care – or introducing regular home care services – is a tough decision that can come with feelings of anxiety and guilt and carry the psychological equivalent of abandonment.
In many cases, these emotions can overrule logic, leaving family members feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and out of the loop – especially if they live far from their loved one.
A well-thought-out family communication plan will help alleviate most of these pain points, but you must set clear expectations. Be transparent about the level of communication your home care business will provide – including what information you will share, how, and when.
By setting clear expectations and healthy boundaries around communications, you will show professionalism and instill confidence, so your clients’ family members can relax, knowing their loved ones are in very safe hands.
6. Measure and review results regularly for continued development
Once you’ve set up your plan and it’s been running for a while, it’s important to provide frequent opportunities for your clients and their families to give you further input and feedback. This will help you refine and improve your communications for even better outcomes moving forward.
It’s vital to regularly measure results, explore areas for improvement, and continually refine your approach as your client/patient and family needs evolve. Fastest-growing companies are shown to be up to 50% more likely to regularly use performance measurement metrics.
Leading home care providers are already successfully using mobile devices and intelligent software to improve their internal and external communications and gain a competitive advantage – enhancing their care-team coordination, improving client outcomes, increasing client and family engagement and retention, winning more referrals, and receiving higher satisfaction survey scores.