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Think digital as you set key strategies for growing a home care agency


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, by AlayaCare CEO, Adrian Schauer.

In any booming industry, it is always the right business move to harness opportunities that set your business up for growth.

Home care, of course, is one such industry. Already seeing accelerated growth before COVID-19, in its wake it has become a major player in health-care for several reasons: the home setting can be a safer, better place to deliver care than in hospitals or congregate care settings; barriers to telehealth are evaporating; and increasingly, more aspects of the patient journey can happen in the home, thanks to technology.

The demand for home health solutions now far outstrips supply. In fact, in the U.S. alone there are 2.3 million home-care workers providing care to about 4.7 million seniors and adults with disabilities, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. Yet by 2026, the home-care industry will need to fill 4.2 million jobs nationally – a prediction made even pre-pandemic.

There’s no question that opportunities abound for agencies that can scale, attract, and keep great caregivers if they can leverage technology that will help them flourish.

Why tech is the key to growth in home care

An agency’s operating model is only as strong as the software tools it has in place, a fact that takes on heightened importance as companies are even more distributed and remote amidst the current landscape. With hybrid home/office models for staff and caregivers infrequently visiting the office, good technology becomes the fabric that binds a team together. Inversely, inadequate technology leads to friction and risks further damaging an agency’s culture already fractured by COVID.

The bar for professional digital solutions has been raised. Your client, caregiver, and office employee experience is heavily influenced by micro-interactions within software tools. That’s because experiences are increasingly digital, and if they are frustrating, you may find that instead of seizing growth opportunities, you’re losing key stakeholders to other organizations that promise a more seamless experience.

Look at the numbers: agencies make their gross margin on each hour of care delivered. Overhead costs must be contained to turn a net profit overall. Technology is the ideal, and perhaps only way, to achieve the operating leverage needed to scale.

Technology also positions any agency to have the best chance to grow if we consider key strategies toward that end.

Key considerations for growth

While I can’t cover all the considerations for a growth-oriented home care agency here, as CEO of a company that has scaled successfully within our collective industry, and from the conversations I’ve had over the years, I would like to put forward several strategies that reliable, effective technology can help to underpin.

1. Evolve into the most trusted source for referrals

The healthcare industry isn’t known for its expedient adoption of data and digital solutions. But COVID has changed that. To become a reliable source of referrals is to have data that proves your client outcomes are top-tier. For that, you need the ability to capture data at the point-of-care, and also put it into the context of a care plan with a particular patient cohort. Referrers will trust a data-driven operation that “walks the walk” with consistently high levels of care.

2. Approach M&As the right way

If you aspire to scale faster than a more natural organic rate of growth that your business model, system, and team can support, one method is to acquire companies who have already solved the problems you haven’t – thus bringing high-value growth acceleration.

Successful acquisitions take the benefits of scale and avoid possible disadvantages – for example, suddenly excessive processes and slower decision cycles. Technology is a great way to augment the business and ensure full visibility into your agency’s operations. It also lets the acquired business enjoy the benefits of being part of a bigger company while maintaining the elements that led to its success so far.

3. Be attractive when seeking potential investors

I’m grateful that my company has been able to successfully engage a broad range of investors. Along the way, I learned that the best gift you can give them is predictability. Any funder is rolling the dice on you, and they want to know if your business is reliable, well-oiled, and operating in a way that will drive growth.

And they’ll need to see proof. You need to provide data that demonstrates your agency’s key drivers, opening a real-time view into patterns and trends. If you can reliably show you are accelerating into the next few quarters, the next few years, you’ll gain the trust of investors.

4. Franchising is about community

Franchising is another growth strategy that requires a collection of entrepreneurs who share a framework to build a business. That framework must be high-quality and support all franchises.

In my view, what separates great franchises from the pack are those that are able to establish a community to learn from each other and spread best practices quickly. Technology can facilitate this: digital tools can measure your efforts, with top franchises empowered to amplify their approach and bolster their networks.

5. Use metrics to establish what “great” looks like

KPIs, you may have noticed, are now an imperative, an invaluable tool to support agency growth. Don’t fall victim to using KPIs the wrong way, like tying them to employee incentives. Go ahead and assume your people are coming to work each day trying to do a great job.

KPIs should instead be tailored toward getting everyone aligned on what great looks like. This shared view must be established first by leaders who agree on the most valuable metrics needed to measure the agency’s efforts. Lean on data to keep tabs on what’s important – and drive your business forward.

6. Technology can promote caregiver retention and attraction

Onboarding and keeping a team of skilled caregivers is essential to growth. Technology is essential for this: it’s truly what can create a phenomenal caregiver experience. Clumsy or inefficient point-of-care tools leave caregivers disappointed or frustrated and can detract from their most meaningful pursuit: providing care to clients. Plus, elements like scheduling tools allow caregivers to build their preferred schedules and avoid lengthy drives or empty gaps in their day.

For an agency, tech tools can support overall attraction and retention, with visibility into caregiver satisfaction levels at a very precise level. Machine learning algorithms can generate satisfaction scores that help understand what may be causing employee churn – and, importantly, how to address it before it occurs.  

7. Double down on client experience

Word of mouth travels fast and it’s important to back up your claims of quality client care. While your caregivers may be top-notch, other elements can dampen that client experience. Nothing’s more discouraging than having to re-explain their situation to a new caregiver. Instead, digital tools can equip each caregiver with all information and context before they knock on the door.

Clients of course crave consistency. Modern home care scheduling software will help back-office staff maximize continuity of care and maintain the best caregiver fit for each client.

Outside of episodes of care, a digital experience can be delivered to clients. Very popular now are “portals” that give clients, families, and anyone involved in their circle of care clear visibility into care plans, progress, and expectations.

8. Look for the right partners

Growing businesses leverage others in ways that can benefit them. In home care, find a technology partner that will stick by you for the next decade. Other than understanding the capabilities of their products, you’ll want one whose values align with yours, and one that will invest in innovations over time that will make you stand out. You want a partner, not a vendor, who will help you launch but slowly thereafter fade to the background, providing support and innovations when needed.

Growth, to me, is a natural extension of being able to stay true to your vision. If the vision you express is kept, and if you live your values, it will come back positively in how clients, employees, and investors view your business.