Pandemic presents challenges for home care but also opens new doors of opportunities
What a year it has been. There has not been an aspect of our lives that has not been touched by COVID-19. I am in the home care industry and, trust me, we had no idea what to expect.
All we thought about in of March 2020 was caregivers and clients getting sick. Could we purchase enough PPE to keep everyone safe? The shortages nationwide were acute. We had to train caregivers on CDC protocols and get them to sign off to confirm training. We had to conduct monthly trainings to ensure CDC protocols were being followed. Our nurses had to visit clients and caregivers. There were new families who needed care for aging parents that required paperwork and signatures. Technology came to the rescue, and it has altered the way we conduct business.
PPE had to be ordered. Supply companies were digitized and websites handled the orders. Human intervention was still required when product was never delivered and you needed to speak to customer service. It was madness. Happily, we survived.
If you were a company that did not use DocuSign or similar services, you learned how to use it. Clients learned how to use it. Employees learned how to use it. Meetings and trainings were on Zoom, Ring Central or FaceTime. In person client visits became virtual. The AG’s office in New Jersey issued a temporary regulation that allowed us to operate with virtual visits. Everything started to flow. We expanded our skill set. We learned how to work in the pandemic environment and benefited in several ways.
The best thing of all was that in-home care was the safest way to care for our elderly parents. It was unusual to learn that an aide caused their client to get COVID-19. Aides were not becoming ill from their clients. Aides wore masks, gloves and had gowns. Hand washing, along with other hygiene protocols, were followed. Living at home is not congregant housing, thus eliminating exposure to other people.
My business spent thousands of dollars on PPE. No one was without protection. This went a long way in keeping people safe.
Telemedicine also was used more widely. Telemedicine has benefits such as:
- Minimizes unnecessary doctor visits
- Easier to see doctors
- Provides ongoing support to patients
- Increases chances of living in your home for longer
- Increases access to a variety of doctors and specialists in remote areas
- Decreases wait time for appointments
Medicare will be paying for more telemedicine as time goes on. How to bill? How much to bill? These are a few of the questions being discussed at state and federal levels. The AMA reports in a survey conducted in 2016 that 14% of the doctors they surveyed used some form of Telehealth. In the same survey in 2019, the percentage increased to 28%. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 60-90% of doctors are using some form of telehealth.
Baby boomers and folks in their early 70s have experience with technology. Using Telehealth is relatively easy for this age group. They have computers, smart phones and Wi-Fi.
For people in their 80s and 90s, technology use is a challenge. Comprehension of technology will need to increase. Home care agencies such as mine, Comfort Keepers, provide clients with Wi-Fi tablets that are simple to use and allow older people to take advantage of telemedicine.
Amazon Care is offering telemedicine services to their employees in their home state of Washington. Amazon has partnered with an independent medical practice to provide health services. We know how Amazon operates. How long will it be before they introduce these services throughout the US to Amazon Prime members?
There is one issue technology cannot satisfy. Home healthcare is upfront and personal. A virtual nurse cannot help someone take a shower, dress, cook a meal, hold someone’s hand or administer medication. Home healthcare is gratifying work. The demand will be with us for many years which means robots are not replacing these jobs as they are in other industries.
For business owners, how do we use technology to help control the cost of medical insurance? On an individual level, how do we leverage technology to help provide care for our loved ones and ourselves? How do we prepare for our needs in the future?
Pressing questions that have no simple solutions. I will try. Take advantage of telemedicine, but do not let it replace in person doctor visits.
For those of you that do not have Long Term Care Insurance, get it. The cost of care both at home or in a facility is becoming more expensive. You will be grateful that you made the choice.
For employers, add long term care insurance to your benefit options. Make sure the medical insurance you provide allows people to take advantage of telemedicine. Make sure that in-office Doctor visits are still available. In-person visits, just like in person meetings, and working together are still vital to our physical health, our emotional health and the success of our businesses.
Zoom will never replace human contact.
Eydie Shapiro is an owner and the Director of Sales for Comfort Keepers At Home Care of Secaucus. The company is owned and operated by the three women of Women On a Mission, LLC. We know from personal experience the challenges families face in caring for loved ones as they get older and need help with the activities of daily living and we partner with families to address their concerns and help their loved ones maintain independence. Eydie Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (201) 771-1908. For more information, feel free to visit Comfort Keepers | In-Home Care