How Health Plans Can Enhance Senior Care With Home Health Services
10/31/2022 Cindy Thomas
The traditional path to healthcare in the U.S. has often looked like this: First, we recognize the need for care and reach out to a care provider for assistance. Next, we travel to a doctor’s office or hospital. Then, we check in, sit in a waiting room, and wait to be seen.
This reactive care model is costly, inefficient, and does not produce a healthier population. Incrementally, however, this is beginning to change. Home-based care is an important element to a healthier population for multiple reasons:
- Care is undeniably moving to the home. Recent research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests trends that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic are here to stay, driving huge growth across the industry. There is a huge need for both non-skilled home care services and skilled home health care.
- Innovative businesses are enhancing their products to accommodate various forms of in-home care. Health plans are actively purchasing and rebranding home care businesses to meet changing member needs.
- The need will only increase for our aging population. The National Council on Aging cited 80% of adults 65 and older have at least one chronic condition, while 68% have two or more — many of which may include mobility limitations. Whether too painful or simply impossible, a trip to the clinic presents a real challenge.
- A growing number of providers are leveraging technology to improve the efficiency of home care delivery with remote monitoring devices and telehealth. In fact, Home Health Care News (HHCN) reports that 43% of home-based care agencies said that technological interoperability will have a “high impact” on their ability to grow in the future. This number represents a 14% year over year increase .
Why it matters
A recent Avalere Health report found that in the 90 days following a hospital discharge, the total cost of care for those receiving in-home health support was 44% lower than those not receiving in-home care.
In addition to the substantial cost savings of home-based care, patients and families report greater satisfaction, resulting in higher STAR ratings for home health businesses and for health plan products. Many older adults who need extra care are unwilling to move into a nursing home where they will be forced to give up their freedom of making personal choices. Home care allows them to age in place, which lets them remain in charge of their habits, lifestyle and choices.
Most large health plans recognize the importance of offering home care services as a supplemental benefit. A number have acquired or merged with home care businesses to start innovative programs for their members. At RRD, through our own client engagements, we find that to drive success in these programs additional support is often necessary in the following areas:
- Re-branding and launching these programs
- Member awareness of this valuable benefit
- Member engagement and ongoing participation
- Sending medical devices for remote monitoring
Data indicates a caregiver shortage is problematic
The overarching need of all home health providers is to find and retain caregivers. Results from HHCN’s annual outlook survey highlighted how this shortage is affecting providers:
- 71% of healthcare survey participants plan to pursue at-home care models for the first time in 2022
- 80% of respondents cited staffing as their greatest challenge in 2022 — recruiting (57%) and retention (32%) are their primary concerns
- 80% of respondents said their companies are turning away customer referrals due to a lack of quality caregivers
Customer acquisition efforts alone will not solve the growth problems of home health businesses. There is a massive gap between those who need help and those who provide help.
4 tactics to drive home health programs forward
We recognize businesses and health plans in the home health space face a number of obstacles on their path to providing care. In our experience, staff management, remote patient care technology, and patient/member engagement tend to be three of the most common roadblocks.
From caregiver retention and hiring to patient experience and brand awareness, consider these vetted (and highly recommended) tactics for transforming your touchpoints into more meaningful, connected moments of impact.
1. Survey the situation
Targeted surveys are an effective way to obtain key insights on everything from brand perception to high-priority patient satisfaction. In the home health sector, directly surveying your members can provide valuable insights that:
- Inform providers of potential health outcomes
- Reveal patient satisfaction levels
- Reveal caregiver satisfaction levels
- Validate and accelerate care strategies
- Improve communication efforts (e.g., caregiver recruitment, patient engagement)
Surveys may also help health plans and providers quickly adapt to changes in both client and caregiver attitude, behavior, motivations and expectations in real-time. This valuable and current first-party data can confidently produce a highly-specific plan to remediate any problem or concern.
2. Create ambassadors through smarter branding
Easily washable, comfortable, practical, and attractive — when done right, logo-wear can do wonders in making a caregiver feel like a professional and part of a team. It can also establish trust with patients and reinforce brand legitimacy.
According to Lands’ End Business, providing caregivers quality branded apparel can translate into the following benefits:
- Portrays a sense of reliability and professionalism
- Fosters a sense of teamwork and camaraderie
- Drives brand recognition
- Creates another marketing avenue
Vehicle advertising is also worth mentioning here. Full, partial, or spot custom car wraps can turn a caregiver’s car into an always-on mobile billboard, picking up new impressions with each trip.
3. Deliver care kits to show appreciation and support
Consider the impact of a purposefully curated care kit. Whether to say thanks, onboard new staff, provide on-the-job support (e.g., PPE, health assessment forms, digital thermometers), or all of the above, care kits exhibit advocacy as well as a commitment to your caregivers and their patients.
They also provide home health programs with a unique, unexpected, and convenient touchpoint designed to foster relationships. Depending on the provider, customizing and ordering a care kit can be as simple as using a single digital storefront.
For health plans, specifically, home care may be enhanced with medical devices and telehealth to offer 24/7 care. Medical device kits and instructions for use (IFUs) sent to a member’s home can increase engagement and encourage better self-care habits.
4. Communicate with relevant content — and regularity
Thoughtful and consistent communication is another way businesses that offer in-home care can not only improve brand credibility, but also benefit the relationship, enhance self-care, and increase member engagement.
A monthly newsletter — printed or digital — can be an excellent place to start. An article from Forbes calls out the following as critical to making this format effective:
- Keep it simple but catchy
- Ensure the content is relevant to the reader and their needs
- Keep the font consistent
- Look for micro-personalization opportunities
- Include an engaging design
- Gather feedback from your audience
According to Campaign Monitor, “receiving a newsletter should feel like getting an update from an interesting and helpful friend rather than a hard sell from a pushy salesperson.” And when you consider senior communities, for example, a newsletter that shares trusted insights from industry specialists and clear care instructions for better disease management can become a valuable tool in shaping healthier outcomes.
Cindy Thomas is the Director of Business Development for RRD’s Health Plan Solutions. If you are interested in learning more about RRD’s survey management solution, turnkey care kits, and the rest of our healthcare solutions, visit our Healthcare Solutions page and connect with an expert like Cindy.