Preparing for a surge in home-based care

 In Clinical Care, COVID-19, Crisis Communication, Human Resources, Marketing

Are you prepared to live up to the promise of caring for more people at home? As you probably know, the National Association of Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare (PQHH) issued a joint statement on April 2 saying home care providers are ready to relieve the growing COVID-19 burden on hospitals by caring for more patients in home settings.

To help your agency play an important role in this strategy, consider these important aspects:

  1. Appeal to an increased family desire to keep loved ones at home. Most families want their loved ones – especially those most at-risk for COVID-19 – to be sheltered at home rather than exposed to the populations of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Now is a great time to educate families about your expertise in home-based care to help them feel even more comfortable that their loved one can still receive top-notch clinical support in their own home.
  2. Explain the precautions you’re taking to keep home care visits safe. On the other side of the coin, some families are worried about letting any “outsiders” – including professional caregivers – into their home due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. You can educate families about the proper use of PPE, your sanitation protocols and other precautions you’re taking to keep their loved one safe. You may even be able to use telehealth and provide some services virtually since CMS has waived certain former rules to allow telehealth over in-person visits.
  3. Manage client expectations of what you are able to do … and live up to those expectations. As your patient volume grows, you may have to adjust some factors of your processes and protocols. For instance, will a surge in referrals impact the speed of your admissions or cadence of care? Will you need to apply new guidelines for admission eligibility? Will you replace certain services with telehealth over personal visits? Whatever the answers, be sure to clearly communicate what you will be able to do … and what you won’t … as well as details such as frequency of care and who will be providing the services. As long as you manage expectations up front – then live up to your own promises – you can maintain credibility and trust with patients, families and referrers alike.
  4. Communicate frequently with staff about changes in expectations for them … and show your support. As caseloads grow, your staff will feel the strain. Because home healthcare workers are typically so passionate and compassionate about their patients, many may start to feel guilt (or other negative emotions) about not being able to respond as quickly or as thoroughly as when caseloads were lighter. Just as you need to manage expectations with external audiences, it’s vital to manage expectations of your internal team. Have a very clear channel of frequent communications in place. Help your team understand how certain changes in processes or protocol are designed to support them in juggling their responsibilities. Let them know that it’s okay to change their former practices as they provide quality care with new methods. The more you can show empathy and support for your team in finding solutions together, the stronger your team will become.

These tips address only a few of the communications challenges and opportunities emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to discuss additional needs or concerns regarding communication strategies and messaging during this crisis, feel free to contact me.

 

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