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Home care organizations should prepare for a tech-enabled future
This advice is for non-medical home care, home health care, and geriatric care management organizations and is drawn from the July 31, 2012 report, Future of Home Care Technology Report. The report surveyed 315 organizations spanning 34,509 workers. Based on the limited use of technology today, but the growing wave about the inevitability of data sharing about care recipients across the significant boundaries of home care, home health care, hospitals, rehabilitation/nursing homes and assisted living. Organizations of each type of care delivered into the home will need to prepare now for the inevitability of a Home Care Information Network that must be sponsored, delivered and adopted over the next five years. To maximize its benefit, organizations that deliver care must:
Boost partnerships that span non-medical, home health, geriatric care -- and insurers. Non-medical home care services increasingly transcend the ‘companion designation’ and are cross-contracting with each other (and other groups) to meet the requirements of care recipients – such as those with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Organizations will need to market and form alliances in their individual geographies that span their own boundaries (and barriers). And as last year’s Humana acquisition of SeniorBridge illustrates, insurance companies are also taking action to meet the needs of their customers.
Craft a technology strategy that enables integration of processes and data. As home care organizations grow and evolve, they will need to establish a base platform of software that makes their processes repeatable and their data easily integrated. The history of enterprise software is instructive – at 100 employees it is difficult to change processes (and systems); at 1000 employees, it is disruptive to staff, customers, and partners – as well as costly in preparation and training. Beware of proprietary systems that lack integration points – that is, documented software interfaces where external data can be imported or extracted. In their absence, firms will spend heavily to develop their own difficult-to-upgrade software.
Identify strategic and local technology partnerships to turn strategy into reality. Nationwide firms may find technology partners that span multiple geographies. Regardless of company size, managers must cultivate local hardware, software, and services partnerships. Knowing who to call will keep staff and management functioning; keep communication channels with families open; and ensure that data can be transmitted, acted upon and analyzed to detect patterns and trends. For in-home tech support, the recent partnership between AARP and Best Buy’s Geek Squad (or its equivalent) may be appropriate.
Inspire and engage family members, partners and staff about technology use. The most important aspect of successful in-home care is establishing strong personal relationships, both inside and with clients. But relationships alone are difficult to scale and sustain, especially with high staff turnover rates. As repeatable processes are defined, gaining supervisors interest in new technologies and demonstrating them to families will be just as important. A care recipient may move around – but she or he is still the same person, with the same family, history, and both medical and non-medical needs. High quality information is already essential to meeting those needs – getting everyone on board with the uses and benefits will provide differentiation for organizations and enable them to grow as society’s demands on them change.