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Human Resources and Improving Patient Health in Long-Term Care

Long-term care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted-living facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities and home care providers are at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis —along with their long-term care (LTC) workforce. Even before Coronavirus commanded our every waking hour, the long-term care industry was gaining momentum in meeting the needs of the elderly not fulfilled by hospital settings.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), around 69 percent of the U.S. population who survive past age 65 will require long-term care services in their lives. While patients are seeking compassionate and quality care, LTC facilities are also navigating an environment of increased consumer expectations, evolving government regulations, and a widening skills gap.

With high demand for services and staff, putting the right technology in place can help with hiring and retaining qualified nurses and physicians, administrators, home health aides, attendants and support, home health and community services personnel. Human Resources plus technology and a vision for the future can streamline operations and improve resident satisfaction and patient care.

Adapt hiring tactics to ensure employees can meet residents' needs.

The aging population presents challenging medical conditions, and many individuals often have significant, unpredictable needs. The ability to adjust nurse schedules to access the right skills at the right time is critical. Nurse staffing ratios change dramatically based on the level of care each patient needs as well as with the time of day. Flexible but effective staffing improves resident and employee experience as well as bottom line.

A workforce management system with scheduling software that automates operations can streamline processes and provide visibility into available skills and compliance and where there are gaps, allowing facilities to staff more effectively. Studies continue to prove that residents and patients actually feel better when the correct number of staff with the right skills are available, but the facility benefits from accurate staffing as well, by controlling costs associated with contractors, overtime and incentive pay as well as overall employee engagement and satisfaction, which drives retention.

Expand home health and hospice services to complete the continuum of care.

Safe at home is more than a COVID-19 theme; it is the desire of many individuals to remain in their own home throughout the geriatric years. Aging in place may require services such as transportation to and from appointments as well as homemaking and personal care services. Retention is a key challenge with home health workers and high turnover corresponds to a decline in satisfaction scores, largely due to gaps in care, delays in starting services and establishing staff/resident relationships. Hiring the right talent and engaging and retaining top employees can result in higher morale, lower employee turnover, and a stronger bottom line. Organizational change and talent management can increase the candidate pool and create an efficient, repeatable process.

Create programs to keep seniors independent.

The LTC industry is moving more toward equal parts patient care and resident hospitality.  Assessment and case management, professional health services, personal care, homemaking, tech skills and other services helps individuals to live independently, and, in many cases prevent health and functional breakdowns and eventual hospitalization. Respite programs, adult day programs and community support programs such as Meals on Wheels can help to meet people’s support needs and delay or avoid facility admission. With expansion of programs, technology investments need to focus on the integration of electronic medical records, patient scheduling and billing and physical therapy, speech therapy and rehabilitation practices to connect the continuum of care.

Selecting, hiring and retaining talent is a science, not an art.

Making better hiring decisions using predictive analytics and AI to determine who is most likely to succeed in your organization can improve the quality of talent acquisition.  What tangible and intangible qualities does a caregiver in a long-term care facility possess?  How are they different than the skills needed in an acute care setting?  What will allow you to retain them with increasing competition from the likes of Amazon or other traditionally higher paying companies looking for similar skills?  It’s time to  evaluate investments and  strategies in recruitment, retention, training, staff development and talent management technology to combat staffing challenges and make a chance at success less random. A behavioral assessment for use in recruiting, promotion, employee development and succession planning can help organizations build diverse teams, personalize career pathing strategies, increase productivity, and long-term engagement.

Selecting, retaining, and developing the right talent across the entire employee life cycle can completely transform how business is done. For long-term care organizations striving to better meet resident needs and scale the business, technology can help streamline processes and support the expanded roles and services required in long-term care settings for older adults.

Jen Pugh is vice president, Healthcare ERP, at Avaap where she is responsible for helping long-term care and other hospitals and healthcare institutions leverage ERP technology for growth, improved productivity and business transformation.