Using Virtual Care to Address Staffing Challenges

Staffing Issues Amid COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, many home health and hospice agencies have been struggling with staffing issues such as finding and keeping qualified staff.  The turnover rate for the home health industry increased to 22.18% in 2020, a slight increase compared to 2019’s rate of 21.89%, according to the most recent Home Care Salary & Benefits Report.  Given the aging of Baby Boomers, the demand exceeds the available supply of forecasted home healthcare workers.  Amid the pandemic, agencies may also be struggling to better support their community by:

  • Caring for COVID-19 positive patients at-home if they do not require higher level care
  • Helping hospitals discharge COVID-19 patients earlier to the home setting
  • Easing the burden on our nation’s hospitals so available beds are “freed up” for the most critical patients

Employee churn – which can lead to cancelled/rescheduled appointments and undermine an agency’s ability to take on new patients – can lead to a breakdown in the continuum of care, weaker overall outcomes, and an increased risk of readmissions.  Ultimately, this can adversely impact an agency’s reputation amongst referral partners, family caregivers, patients, and employee prospects.

Addressing Current and Future Staffing Needs

Post-pandemic, patients and seniors will continue to need care – and will want to receive that care at home.  Implementing a virtual care platform helps an agency optimize staff productivity and available human resources – while being able to provide better – meaning, more timely and higher quality – care to patients.

Synzi’s virtual care communication platform is designed to help agencies provide innovative care while optimizing staff productivity and current resources. With Synzi, a home health agency’s staff will have more consistent contact with patients, leading to better adherence, reduced ER visits and readmissions, and enhanced patient satisfaction.

Home health agencies and other post-acute care organizations use HIPAA-compliant video functionality to conduct virtual visits with patients and maintain patient engagement in-between in-person visits.  The flexibility in providing care virtually also helps agencies when a staff member is unexpectedly unavailable for an upcoming visit.  Other available clinicians can use the Synzi platform to provide short-term coverage via video.  Appointments will not always need to be rescheduled and patients will be able to access the support they need on a more consistent basis.

Agencies also use the platform to quickly push condition-related messaging, visit reminders, and coronavirus information to their patients.  The messaging functionality saves countless hours for staff who would typically have to field in-bound calls as well as call each patient in their census.  During the pandemic, agencies appreciate being able to easily broadcast valuable education and timely updates about COVID-19 and related vaccinations to their census.

Digital assessments and remote patient monitoring also helps staff virtually monitor and manage their patients on a continual basis.

  • Assessments can be pushed to the patients before or after each virtual visit to gauge how the patient is feeling as well as the patient’s self-care activities.  These assessments enable staff to check on the patient’s progress and modify the plan of care.
  • An agency’s patients can easily share their vital signs from a smartphone or tablet with Bluetooth-enabled devices and consumer products.  Staff can monitor weight, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and glucose. The Synzi dashboard highlights real-time patient data and triggers alerts when a patient’s data is out of a normal range so the agency’s clinicians can quickly intervene.  Plus, referral partners can also continue tracking health data for a patient who has been released to one’s home or a nursing facility.

With virtual care, agencies can achieve the Triple Aim in healthcare – improving the health of populations, enhancing the experience of care for individuals, and reducing the per capita cost of health care.  From a patient reach/engagement and staff satisfaction standpoint, virtual care also helps agencies deliver on the “fourth aim” – elevating health equity and joy in work.

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