A peaceful summer: how HHPs ensured the well-being of their patients
Summer represents an exciting challenge for home healthcare providers. Discover the strategies and tools that enable them to ensure continuity of care, the availability of medical devices and the safety of the patients they care for when some of their staff are themselves on holiday and repeated heatwaves demand extra attention.
HHPs at the forefront of changes in patient behaviour
All home healthcare providers agree that patients who need daily care or whose health depends on one or more medical devices are much less reluctant to go on holiday than they used to be. Nevertheless, they want to be able to do so without risk, with the assurance that wherever they stay temporarily, they will find all the medical and technical assistance they may need. Unfortunately, this summer mobility does not concern dependent elderly people or patients with the most serious pathologies. On the other hand, it does affect their relatives and the large community of family carers, for whom taking a few days’ holiday is an essential respite, but can only be envisaged serenely if they are certain that the person being cared for will receive all the attention they need during their absence.
These changes in behaviour bear witness not only to the crucial role that HHPs now play in the healthcare system and in the lives of chronically ill patients, but also to the trust that these companies have been able to establish with patients and families by organising themselves to take care of and support both those who leave and those who stay. The strategies put in place by players in the sector to carry out their missions over the summer months are based on three pillars: anticipation, communication and optimisation.
Anticipate to better plan operations
More than in previous years, HHPs took the initiative to identify patients planning to go on holiday and find out when they would be away. Targeted e-mail campaigns, typically by pathology/type of device used, enabled them to provide patients with specific information and advice in preparation for the summer and, above all, to collect their absence intentions via a form. The teams working on patients’ premises, for care or technical reasons, also contributed to this collection of information, which was essential for estimating the teams’ workload as far in advance as possible during the summer period. On this basis, the companies were able to :
- eliminate from the schedules planned interventions for patients who are planning to be absent (visits to check/adjust devices, deliveries of consumables, etc.);
- identify and precisely locate the most vulnerable patients – those who are not leaving, but who need extra care and support in the absence of their relatives and/or in the event of a heatwave;
- organise staff holidays and, if necessary, recruit the staff needed to meet activity forecasts and provide 100% of the services required by patients who are not leaving and, in tourist areas, by patients temporarily residing within their perimeter;
- update and validate patient data (contact details, referring doctor and other people involved, person(s) to contact in an emergency for patients living alone, code and conditions of access to the patient’s home to facilitate interventions carried out by replacements, etc.)
Of course, many factors can thwart the holiday plans of chronically ill patients, and all planned absences must be confirmed a few days before the announced departure date. However, thanks to this easy-to-implement proactive approach, HHPs are giving themselves and their staff visibility and strengthening the links with the patients and families who place their trust in them.
Targeted communication with departing patients
A number of home healthcare provider networks have been particularly active this summer, regularly communicating with ‘travelling’ patients. In addition to practical advice and recommendations, patients using certain devices (sleep apnoea devices, insulin pumps, urinary catheters, etc.) received personalised information by email or text message before their departure, based on their condition and holiday destination:
- address and contact details of the nearest network branch to be contacted in the event of a breakdown/malfunction of their medical device, or to have consumables/replacement devices delivered to their temporary address;
- a list of hospitals, doctors and/or nurses able to look after them during their stay;
- reminders of the treatments being taken and the adjustments appropriate for the patient;
- measures to be taken in the event of hot weather to protect their health and ensure that their device(s) are working properly.
This information reassures patients and reassures them in their plans, while reminding them, via messages during their stay, that their healthcare provider is by their side in all circumstances.
>> This type of service is obviously easier to set up for HHPs with a nationwide presence, and even easier for networks that share the same customer/patient information systems (CRM). Centralising information in a single system also means that any branch or service provider can access all the information available on each patient, including their dates of stay and exact holiday address if a technician is needed or home delivery is required.
>> HHPs with a limited territorial presence are not necessarily outdone. Independent service providers who make the effort to gather information likely to help patients where they are staying, even if it means directing them to a local competitor, demonstrate an involvement that is appreciated by patients and greatly contributes to their loyalty.
Reassuring relatives who are away from home
Organisations have also taken action to ensure that the families of patients and elderly people who are unable to leave their homes can go on holiday with peace of mind. Many home help and care organisations have included in their protocols the sending of a message to reassure the patient’s family after each visit.
This practice is becoming more widespread, as it meets a strong expectation on the part of families.
To make this additional task easier for call handlers and prevent them from forgetting, it is included in the end-of-call procedure of their mobile business application in the form of a short questionnaire, the answers to which are transformed into a personalised message using data from the call handler management system. In some applications, call handlers can also dictate their message. This is then automatically translated into text and sent — by SMS, instant messaging or e-mail — according to the family’s preferences.
Naturally, if the patient encounters any difficulties, the procedure to be followed is different. The next of kin are then contacted by a manager, preferably by telephone, to explain the situation, its seriousness and the arrangements being made. The family can then take the appropriate decisions in full knowledge of the facts.
Optimising schedules and rounds for flawless performance
Communication with patients and their families is particularly important during the summer months, but the main difficulty faced by HHPs during this period is managing their workload. The question all service providers have to answer is this: how can they ensure that their services are carried out properly when some of the teams who normally work with patients are on holiday?
The proactive information approaches we have described make it possible to anticipate staffing needs and launch the necessary recruitments as early as possible in a context of persistent shortages of caregivers and technicians. Planning and optimisation solutions such as Nomadia’s are invaluable in minimising the impact of a potential staff shortage on operations, whether for care, deliveries or the installation/adjustment of specialised equipment.
Based on activity forecasts, the number of staff available and the skills of each operator, HHPs that use our solutions are able to draw up optimised schedules and rounds, taking into account a wide range of criteria: time commitments made with patients and/or their families, contractual delivery times, the duration of each operation, the geographical concentration of operations assigned to the same operator in order to minimise the time spent on the road, etc.
Our mobile business applications, which bring together all the tools and information needed to access the patient’s home, warn them if they are going to be late, know exactly what tasks need to be carried out, draw up visit reports, report any problems encountered by the patient and, as we have seen, keep their relatives informed, all make it much easier for them to carry out the work entrusted to their replacements.
It was by combining the approaches described in this post with the optimisation tools that the HHPs were able to carry out their tasks throughout the summer, in the best possible conditions for both patients and their families and for those involved. It is important to emphasise that the information services developed to deal with summer issues correspond to the general expectations that patients and families have of HHPs. For this reason, they are intended to be continued in order to provide patients with even better support throughout the year.
As a home healthcare provider, have you been experiencing organisational and operational difficulties this summer?
Talk to one of our healthcare experts to find the right solution to meet your needs and the expectations of the patients who place their trust in you.