What Home Healthcare Agencies Need to Know in 2022
It’s been a tumultuous few years for the home healthcare industry, which has been hard hit by the global pandemic. In 2022, however, healthcare agencies can start to feel cautiously optimistic that, at least for a few months, the emergency has abated.
This leads us to the question: What will happen in 2022? What can home healthcare agencies expect, and how do they need to prepare?
Demand Will Continue to Grow
The US has an aging population, with the number of people aged 85 or over growing fast. Worldwide, the number of people with disabilities is also growing. Even before the global pandemic, the need for home healthcare was projected to grow.
Long Covid — which current data shows affects 20% of American adults, and 25% of older Americans — is only going to speed up this tendency. Long Covid can lead to multiple health complications that require greater levels of care.
What’s more, continued anxiety over Covid-19 and other potential pandemics will drive a preference for home care over hospices among some care receivers.
In 2022, and in future years, we can expect to see greater demand for home healthcare services. The challenge for agencies will be meeting this demand while maintaining high standards of care.
Labor Shortages Will Be an Industry-Wide Challenge
The Great Resignation caused over 47 million Americans to quit their jobs in 2021, and there are no signs of it stopping just yet.
The home healthcare industry has been particularly hard hit, with 20% of its workforce quitting since the pandemic began. Pandemic-induced burnout has played a large role in this, although other factors have also contributed.
Increased demand plus reduced staffing levels will leave some home healthcare agencies struggling to provide vital care. Those who thrive in the year ahead will be those who can attract and retain talented staff members.
Caregiver Retention Will Become an (Even Bigger) Priority
In times of labor shortages, it’s better to retain experienced staff than attract newcomers. When employees are retained, so too is organizational knowledge, a valuable asset for healthcare agencies. Your experienced workers know how you operate, and they know their regular care receivers and their needs.
Having a regular caregiver is beneficial for care receivers. They already have a relationship of trust with that person, and seeing the same faces gives their lives stability and routines. When the caregiver frequently changes, the care receiver can feel insecure, confused, and worried. They may not share important information about their health or cooperate as well with the caregiver. This can be a stressful situation for everybody involved.
What’s more, when you retain staff, you have to spend less time and energy recruiting, vetting, and training newcomers — and that time and energy can be devoted to more important tasks.
Retaining staff during the Great Resignation isn’t easy. Successful healthcare agencies will focus on the employee experience. They will ensure that caregivers have regular interactions with managers, that their schedules allow for work-life balance, and that they are satisfied with their compensation.
Pay Rates Under the Microscope
The Great Resignation, alongside high rates of inflation, has led to record high pay rises nationwide. What’s more, the government’s proposed nursing sector reforms will make nurses’ pay — along with union membership — a priority.
Caregivers who are dissatisfied with their pay rates will look for jobs elsewhere. Some may even decide to enroll in further education so that they can become registered nurses or more specialized caregivers, thereby accessing better wages.
Home healthcare agencies may be concerned about their profit margins, especially after the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) and No-Pay RAP came into play. However, agencies with motivated staff members and low caregiver turnover rates will have a competitive advantage. Investing in staff wages can pay off.
Alternatively, if you aren’t able to pay wages that are as competitive as those offered by other agencies, be prepared to make up for it in other ways such as more generous holiday allowances, flexible scheduling, good management, and showing your appreciation for staff as much as possible.
Caregiver Documentation Management Will Be Essential
Vaccinations remain as important as ever for the home healthcare industry. A second booster shot is currently recommended for older or immunocompromised Americans, and there is ongoing speculation over whether the CDC will recommend annual boosters.
While the requirements for healthcare workers vary from state to state, some currently require agencies to ensure all caregivers are fully vaccinated, including boosters. If second boosters become required as we move into the fall, home healthcare agencies will need to be prepared for the paperwork involved.
Agencies should examine their processes now, before it becomes a potentially urgent requirement. Do you have an efficient system for checking caregiver documentation and vaccinations? Will it alert you of approaching expiry dates? Is your system secure but also easy to use? If not, new documentation management processes may be required.
How Home Healthcare Agencies Can Thrive in Rapidly Changing Times
Although there are challenges facing home healthcare agencies in the year ahead, from retaining staff to rising average wages, there’s also plenty to be positive about. Increasing demand for home healthcare paints a promising future, while caregivers are under less pressure than at the height of the pandemic.
Home healthcare agencies that succeed in boosting caregivers’ job satisfaction and meeting demand stand to thrive in 2022 and beyond.
Here at ShiftCare, we believe our job is to make your job easier. That’s why our healthcare software manages everything from caregiver and receiver documentation to scheduling and invoicing.
ShiftCare helps keep staff happy so you can focus on the important things — like providing quality care. Try ShiftCare for free today.