Did you know that home health caregivers are 10 times more likely to be assaulted than the average employee? Sending nurses into unfamiliar territories at various hours of the day and night is more dangerous than most people realize. With the rapid increase in the number of home care givers, it’s absolutely crucial that we take action in protecting the mobile healthcare workforce. In light of the recent HiMMS conference, one of the largest health care trade shows in the industry, I would like to share some compelling data that was presented on this issue.
Expected Home Care Growth
According to the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, there are currently over 33,000 home care and hospice agencies throughout the United States. These agencies provide more than 428 million individual visits to 12 million patients each year. With 70% of those visits associated with patients over the age of 65 and this segment of the population growing exponentially, the growth in home care is expected to follow suit.
What does this mean for the home care workforce?
Home caregivers represent the largest mobile work force in the nation, operating alone at all hours of the day and night in areas of isolation and uncertainty. This workforce drives almost 5 billion miles a year serving their clients in the most dangerous areas of the inner cities and the most isolated rural destinations in America.
Home care workers currently number between 2.8 and 4 million, representing a variety of skill levels from RNs to respite caregivers. This number is expected to grow by 50% over the next 4 to 8 years.
Home Care Technology Growth
Administrative and clinical home care technology is currently one of the fastest growing sectors of healthcare. The use of laptop computers, tablets and smart phones penetrates every aspect of society regardless of the user’s economic status or age. Wireless networks have expanded to reach every corner of the nation. And, emergency mass notification solutions have evolved into true communication platforms allowing individuals to respond to notifications rather than simply receive alerts. Yet, there are few technologies deployed within home care enhancing the safety of personnel as they care for the needs patients in an environment most conducive to healing – the home.
Leveraging Technology for Employee Safety
With this pervasive growth in network coverage, mobile device proliferation and the evolution of emergency mass notification systems into IP-based communication platforms, AtHoc has leveraged its technology to focus on home caregiver safety. This new solution provides a “virtual companion” to remote caregivers, eliminating the sense of being alone and detached from their support system. The mobile application provides a single-touch duress capability informing supervisors of emergencies encountered in the field associated with caregivers or their patients. Caregivers can attach comments and pictures to keep supervisors advised of their ongoing status. The application allows them to check-in/out of each site, notifying their support team of their location and duration onsite. If a check-out has not occurred within a specified amount of time, supervisors can inquire if the employee needs assistance. And finally, if the employee senses danger, they can activate geo-tracking, making management aware of their situation and enabling them to “follow” the caregiver on a Web-based map.
Home care’s large, independent and mobile workforce operates throughout the nation in uncertain environments. Mobile technology can provide a sense of security and safety as they provide care to speed patient recovery or help them maintain an independent lifestyle while living with a debilitating chronic condition.