Wasn’t it just recently that we talked about Home Care Management? You’re absolutely right. However, after the previous article, it seems befitting to talk about the 5 things to look out for in a home care provider. Treat it as part two of the ultimate guide, and without further ado, let’s dive right into it.
1. Quality of Care
The most decisive quality a home care provider should possess is the quality of care provided to the patients. The quality is dependent on how responsive the staff are to the patients’ needs.
What standard of service can or should they expect? Are they available round the clock? The provider should cater to patients’ specific needs such as household maintenance, consultation skills & knowledge or assistance on basic sanitation needs.
A study was done by BMC Health Services Research recently. The study talks about how “quality” is denoted in home care. It was done in various focus groups and individual interviews with 65 home care staff. The analysis showed two significant categories of terms defining “quality” in home care. Mainly, “patient-centred approach – more than covering basic needs” and “right competence”.
“Right competence” includes many qualities, including communication and critical thinking. The results emphasise the importance of training inducted by home care providers to cultivate these traits. These factors determine how the patients will perceive your quality of care. Evidently, providers should integrate these qualities into staff training for improvement and adaptation to different patient conditions.
The service provider should have a home care management system integrated with the documentation function. Services provided by the staff and future treatment plans for patients will be meticulously recorded down in a detailed plan. The records make it easier for the billing part later on.
Hence, utilising the right technology and tools for home care is pivotal for providing quality care and service. Not only that, the home care providers should be aware of and responsive to the patients’ needs. These are some of the traits a good home care staff will possess.
2. Availability of skilled staff
The next factor to consider in a home care provider is the availability of skilled staff. Especially during this pandemic, it’s been mentioned time and again that there’s a lack of staffing in the home care industry. An estimated 140,000 shifts per week will be unfilled, and up to 30% of roster vacancies were reported during the pandemic’s climax. Additionally, one provider company estimated up to 40% of the staff receiving no bonuses as they are ineligible for government payments.
The aged home care industry is losing its workers to the food & beverages industry, retail and other frontline and labour sectors with a higher pay jump or better health insurance coverage and employee benefits. However, not all home care providers have health insurance coverage for their staff, leading to a lack of staffing. Especially during this pandemic, workers are more concerned about theirs and their families’ health and safety than before.
Furthermore, not all staff have the necessary skills for providing home care services. Of course, effective communication is a must. Still, on top of that, the ability to manage operations, adaptability to unprecedented changes and multi-tasking are some of the most significant challenges for home care staff.
Something as intimate as taking care of fundamental sanitation and personal needs, it’s unsettling to have a different staff assigned to the patient every few days. One day it could be Sally, and the next, Dolores. “Who’re all these people?” The patient is unsure what they can expect from each staff and their years of experience. The underlying rationale for having the same staff assigned to each patient lies in trust.
A rostering system can resolve the predicament of whether the same staff are available on the days required to take care of the patients. Most home care providers prefer if the patients have a set day and time for the staff to go over to their houses to work around and develop an effective rostering system.
Rostering is key to the staff’s productivity and decisive in how well each staff assigned can cater to the patients’ needs. Effective rostering can ensure the same worker is assigned to the same patients.
3. Wellbeing of home care staff
Indefinitely, home care providers need to ensure the safety and satisfaction of their patients and their team. In addition, it’s vital for the home care staff to feel happy and safe going to work. Therefore, worker safety experience is the top-notch priority for the home care sector.
Besides their safety, their mental health and wellness also affect the quality of care provided. For example, if the staff is worried about their safety during work, i.e., if they’re going to be assaulted, they will be unable to focus during the course of care.
With a wandering mind, the staff can’t perform to their maximum capabilities and can’t provide patients with a wholesome experience. They’ll dread the idea of going to this patient’s home and might find ways to wriggle out of the designated shift.
This leads to an unhappy and unengaged team, negatively affecting the already dwindling workforce. Staff can face immense pressure, and one way to alleviate the stress home care staff face is by providing a support group for them.
On top of that, staff’s engagement and satisfaction convey a lot about the company’s culture and set a standard for current and future employees. Their safety and wellbeing take precedence over any quantifiable measurables. At the end of the day, the wellbeing of employees = quality of care provided to patients.
One appropriate function for a home care provider to equip is a worker duress alarm in their system. This alarm can alert a “round the clock” response team when there’s a compromise on the staff’s safety. How it works is that the response team will receive a location and timestamp for immediate action.
4. Staff remain in compliance
Following this, the next thing to look out for in a home care provider is that the staff remain in compliance. There’s many healthcare regulations in the home care sectors we can barely keep up with, yet the codes of practice in Australian aged healthcare are ever-changing. As a result, healthcare compliance ranks as one of the issues discussed deeply. It’s a tough juggle to achieve excellence while maintaining compliance.
First things first, the staff should have the required proper credentials for the job when they apply. This is the most rudimentary step when hiring home care professionals, yet, many companies tend to neglect that and assume every application automatically has the right qualifications and necessary skills.
It’s the home care providers’ due diligence to conduct background checks on their qualifications and past experiences. To disregard this step will create distrust between the clients and the providers. The providers need to assure customers that their loved ones are in good hands and know what they’re doing.
Lastly, the staff should be transparent in documenting the services provided and the required treatment plan. The staff should not omit any information for their own or the patient’s sake. Staff should record any small or significant services performed with integrity.
They shouldn’t be afraid to document what they did or didn’t do. The provider is liable to conduct checks on the quality assurance of service. There should be frequent reviews and updates of the company’s standard of procedures and individual care plans.
5. Response to public health safety
The last and utmost important factor to look for in a home care provider is their response to public safety. Things are starting to look up for COVID-19 positive cases in Australia. As the numbers reduce from an all-time peak of more than 150,000 cases a day in mid-January to slightly over 20,000 cases daily (as of 24 February 2022), certain measures are loosened.
However, the elderly and the ill are still as vulnerable to the virus and its aftereffects. If an asymptomatic or slightly unwell staff possesses the virus and goes around to patients’ homes to provide care, they are causing the spread of the virus. With the staff going to multiple houses a day, tracking the origin and containing the spread will be challenging.
Hence, it’s the provider’s responsibility to ensure their staff are not carriers of the virus. Some precautionary steps they can take are conducting temperature checks before staff’s deployment. Additionally, they should also verify the staff’s vaccination statuses, and only fully vaccinated staff should be deployed.
In addition, they can provide staff with a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kit for them to test regularly. Finally, their home care system should have a site for them to upload their results and the check-in status of the staff when they reach the patients’ homes.
Staff should also take responsibility for the public’s safety and visit the doctors. Staff should stay home when feeling unwell and only return to work when the doctor gives them the green light.
These preventative measures show the community a sense of responsibility and commendable response to public health safety. In turn, the community and the patients will turn to a home care provider that’s reliable and trustworthy.
To sum up, these factors are what the patients and their loved ones look for in a home care provider. The factors are as follows:
- Your quality of care provided to the patients
- Availability of skilled staff to each patient
- The wellbeing of your staff
- Your staff should remain in compliance, and
- How you and your team responds to public health safety
A home care management company or product can aid you in providing unsurpassable care to the patients whilst remaining in compliance. Doesn’t that sound enticing?