In August, the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an information bulletin on “Suggested Approaches for Strengthening and Stabilizing the Medicaid Home Care Workforce.” With home care services growing rapidly, the CMS recognizes the need to also care for the workforce that is delivering home-based care.
The CMS bulletin puts it like this: “A stable workforce, engaged in the delivery of services and supports that address the needs and preferences of beneficiaries, is a critical element to achieving continued progress.”
What are the concerns?
Workers in a typical office setting enjoy many understated benefits. There’s a certain esprit de corps that comes from the everyday business of working directly alongside your coworkers. That bond forms simply from being there through thick and thin – sharing a laugh by the coffee pot, sitting next to one another in departmental meetings, or commiserating over the lack of paper towels in the restroom. Going through common experiences together builds a foundation of shared understanding.
Home care workers who spend their days on the road and in different homes typically don’t have those same opportunities. They deal with traffic alone. They can’t share the moments of joy, sorrow and frustration immediately with other people like them who would truly appreciate what they’re going through.
“Home care workers may interact with their professional peers infrequently, which can promote isolation and disengagement, and make professional development challenging,” the CMS said.
These feelings of detachment for remote workers often lead to staff retention problems. Several studies show turnover rates in home care, especially among aides and paraprofessionals, are frequently in the 30-40% range annually.
Boosting feelings of connectedness
Just because home care staff work remotely, they don’t have to feel isolated. Technology can shrink their world and provide opportunities to communicate with coworkers instantaneously, share information, and receive feedback about how they’re doing.
For example, a mobile health care delivery management solution like CellTrak allows field staff to feel connected to the office. If a field worker wants additional information on a client or needs more instruction about how to provide care, he or she can contact the care support team immediately for assistance or direction.
Cathy Sorenson, CEO Home Healthcare Hospice & Community Services, agrees, “We have experienced a significant decrease in turnover of staff using CellTrak. It has enhanced their sense of inclusion and professionalism.”
Being connected by technology also provides an instant feedback loop for managers that aids professional development. Armed with relevant notes about what care was delivered and how, managers can provide coaching when it’s needed, rather than having to wait until day’s end – or longer – when the memory of what occurred is not as fresh.