The home health care sector has expanded rapidly over the past decade. Once viewed as a luxury urban-centered healthcare solution, this sector has grown to encompass patient care for hundreds of thousands of individuals, even in rural settings. While insurance for home health care providers is designed to help workers mitigate their risks, it is critical that workers understand the challenges and obstacles they may face. Gaining an understanding of these challenges is the key to overcoming them; helping to ensure continued delivery of quality care for people that depend on these services.
1. Increased Demand vs. Caregiver Shortages
Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by the home health care industry as a whole is the disconnect between demands for service and the shortage of skilled and qualified caregivers. The U.S. population is aging rapidly; according to an article published in U.S. News & World Report, approximately 10,000 people turn the age of 65 years each day in the United States. As people age, the idea of home health care becomes more appealing, driving up demand. Numerous home health agencies have sprung up in an attempt to meet those demands. Unfortunately, many of these newer agencies place priority on profits over quality care. In addition, there simply aren’t enough qualified caregivers available, leading some agencies to seek out less-skilled personnel to deliver home health care. Those caregivers that are qualified may not choose home health care as a career option, preferring to focus on less-stressful and better-paying employment in other areas of the healthcare industry. Combined, these factors have led the home health care industry to be in a position of inadequately meeting demands.
2. Employee Retention: Complicating an Already Difficult Healthcare Picture
Across the healthcare industry, employee retention rates are falling. Burnout among healthcare providers can be felt in most sectors, but nowhere is this more troubling than in the home health care arena. Burnout rates are compounded by low wages, ever-increasing work demands, and a lack of recognition and oversight by managers. High burnout rates unfortunately put patients at risk; overworked and under-appreciated healthcare personnel tend to make mistakes, potentially leading to negative consequences for the patients who rely on their services. Home health care insurance helps to protect against some of these risks. To combat burnout and to improve employee retention rates, forward-thinking home health care agencies have implemented employee wellness programs, which may include:
- Meditation and yoga sessions
- Stress-reduction initiatives and training
- Nutrition counseling
- Flexible work scheduling
It is imperative that agencies find solutions to improve retention of qualified caregivers. Raising pay rates can help, as can the introduction and delivery of employee wellness programs.
3. Technology: Advances and Obstacles
Technology has revolutionized the home health care industry in recent years. So-called “telemedicine” systems allow patients to interact with caregivers and other healthcare providers without leaving the comfort of their own homes. At the same time, these systems reduce the employee risks associated with travel to patients’ homes. Remote health monitoring systems can also improve patient outcomes by alerting caregivers of changes in vital signs or condition. Although these technology solutions have the potential to improve healthcare, they are not without challenges. The expense of implementing such systems can be staggering, especially for smaller home health agencies. Learning how to use these systems also places time and effort demands on already-overworked caregivers. As a result, many home health agencies lag behind in rolling out tech-oriented systems.
4. Managing Risks in the Home Health Care Sector
The foundation of risk management in the home health care industry is that of insurance for home health care providers. These policies protect employees and agencies alike, providing coverage for a broad range of liability exposures. Insurance is only one part of a comprehensive risk management program for home health agencies, however. Other aspects include:
- Stringent regulatory compliance to reduce expenses associated with fines and penalties.
- Training and retraining of caregivers, especially in emerging treatments and challenges they will face in care delivery.
- Implementing industry “best practices” to protect patients’ safety and health.
- Providing better care for employees with wellness programs, improved pay rates, and rewards programs.
By managing risks proactively, home health agencies can ensure accurate, compassionate, and safe care for their home-based patients. At the same time, these agencies can provide better working accommodations for employees, helping to improve retention rates and slashing the risk exposures associated with employee-related stress and burnout.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.