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5 Biggest Challenges for Home Health Agencies in 2021

In 2020, the devastating effects of COVID-19 in senior care facilities highlighted what many in the home health industry have known for a long time: home healthcare is an essential option for many of our country’s retirees who may not need or desire long-term residential care.

As we look towards what 2021 may hold, it’s clear that many home health organizations will be growing as more people opt to age in place. 

But, with a global pandemic still affecting the world, vaccine distribution slowed, and the market fluctuating, the industry also faces many challenges. 

To manage that growth and meet the challenges ahead, home health organizations will need to focus both on relationship building and on the urgent need for new technology to ease delivery of care. “2021 will be all about people and technology,” predicts Andrea Cohen, co-founder and CEO of HouseWorkers.

Josh Klein, CEO of Royal Care and Emerest, agrees. “In 2021, as we transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic into a normal way of life, we will begin to see the marriage between the ‘old way’ of how traditional home care was done with the ‘new way,’ including technology-process integration.”

Here are the challenges you’ll be facing in 2021 — and how technology can help you turn them into opportunities.

Ongoing safety concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and home health will have a crucial but difficult role in the ongoing fight against the virus. Providers will be on the frontlines, administering vaccines for many seniors. Ongoing concerns for patient and caregiver safety will likely impact the smooth functioning of business well into the first two quarters of the year.

“As cases continue to climb, more people are valuing and shifting to care in the setting of the home as an alternative,” said Paul VerHoeve, CEO of Mission Healthcare. “Furthermore, home health providers will be a tremendous vehicle for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine for many patients who are high risk, homebound, and unable to get to doctors or clinics.”

Increased demand for qualified home care staff

Home health has long faced the problem of high turnover rates. And though those rates have gone down in recent years, it highlights the need for the industry as a whole to adopt a more future-focused recruiting strategy, one that prioritizes the staff of tomorrow over the staff of right now. 

Today’s candidate is more remote, more digitally connected, and faster-moving than ever before.

Jeff Wiberg, CEO of Family Resource Home Care, sees a clear divergence between “agencies that innovate on how they recruit, retain, train and incentivize their caregivers, and those that continue to struggle with enough staff. I feel we will look back on this time as a watershed moment in home care, where we truly saw advancement in the industry. 2021 is the year to truly make that a reality.”

To attract the right talent to meet the increased demand for home care in 2021, you can’t rely on cold calls to attract talent. By adopting an omnichannel strategy and automating outreach, you can connect with staff faster over email, text, and phone, answer their questions immediately with live chat, and create the kind of modern onboarding experience today’s candidates expect.

Revenue loss RAP adjustments

The past few years have seen an onslaught of changes to payment rules from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In the final months of 2020, CMS issued a new policy on Requests for Anticipated Payment (RAPs) that could spell revenue loss for some home health organizations. CMS plans to end RAPs entirely and shift to a new model in 2022, instituting one-time Notices of Admissions (NOAs). 

Both the 2021 version of RAPs and the future NOAs come with strict deadlines, with CMS requirements indicating that you’ll need to submit both within five days of the start of care to avoid penalties of as much as 20%.

This means that proper and easily-accessible documentation is more crucial than ever. A robust HIPAA-compliant CRM and centralized intake documentation can help you stay ahead of the curve — and avoid loss of revenue. 

Continued isolation and loneliness

Seniors have long been a group battling with loneliness, no matter how they receive their care. For those aging in place, the lack of a built-in community can exacerbate the issue. 

Throughout the pandemic, that sense of isolation has only increased for many seniors. What’s more, home health workers are also more isolated than ever before as they seek to remain as safe as possible as they care for their patients. 

“Isolation was already a big factor for our patients, and social distancing and other limitations on their ability to socialize have only exacerbated this situation,” said Susan Diamond, Home Care Business President at Humana Inc. “Further flexibility would allow us to fully leverage innovation in support of our members’ health.”

Now, more than ever, technology drives our connections. Whether it’s reaching out to one of your frontline home health workers or being always available for your patients, digital connection isn’t just about getting things done — it can be a real lifeline. A 24-7 call center and always-on live chat system can be there when your team can’t to make sure that your caregivers and seniors have the attention they need.   

Technological silos

With all of this technology facilitating change and growth and helping companies meet the demands of this new year, it’s easy to develop a technological ecosystem full of silos. Perhaps your CRM doesn’t talk to your website forms, or your intake and discharge processes are segmented and rife with redundancies. 

These silos will not only cost your team in time and effort. Each redundancy or breakdown introduces the possibility of error, which can slow down your payment processes, reduce customer satisfaction, and impact your bottom line.

A fully interoperable CRM that integrates with all your other solutions is the key to being responsive to your business’s changing needs, creating a best-in-class recruiting experience, and elevating your quality of care.

Looking for more on how technology can help you grow throughout 2021? Schedule a demo today.

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