The majority of home health workers work independently, only visiting the agency offices occasionally for meetings or other “check-ins.” In some rural areas, those office visits may be even fewer and further between.
Although the nature of the home health industry requires that providers spend most of their time in the field and working with patients, that can create some challenges when it comes to managing employees. Hiring individuals who can work independently is imperative, but managers still need to provide leadership and guidance to ensure happy, engaged, and productive employees. The good news is that thanks to technology, including advanced home health software solutions, it’s easier than ever before to effectively manage a remote workforce.
Communication Is Key
The foundation of successful remote healthcare employee management is communication. Without good communication, it won’t take long for your agency to dissolve into chaos. Keeping your team in the loop and encouraging two-way communication helps keep everyone on the same page, helps foster better teamwork, and ensures good patient outcomes.
More specifically, your agency needs to implement the following communication standards:
1. Use a Centralized Communication Platform. Using multiple methods of communication with remote workers is a surefire recipe for confusion and frustration. Your employees should not have to search for important information or messages. Rather than use multiple channels to share information, use one centralized platform, such as your mobile application or software’s secure messaging platform.
Not only does implementing such a platform ensure that all of your employees receive the same message, it is also a more secure and effective means of sharing important information with individuals. For example, sending updates or changes to a patient’s care plan via text message may be efficient, but it’s not secure, and it’s possible that the intended recipient won’t get the message or won’t understand. Using a secure platform for communication ensures compliance with important regulations and accurate messaging.
2. Set Communication Standards. Creating a culture that prioritizes communication means establishing certain communication standards. For example, set the expectation that your employees will respond to messages or calls within a certain timeframe, or be available via phone during certain work hours. Even if you only require employees to acknowledge receipt of a message with a short response, you have confirmation that the communication was received.
It’s also important to establish standards regarding transparency. Often, there is a disconnect between the employees in the field and those in the office. Create an environment in which everyone has access to the same information, and in which your field employees are aware of what is happening in the office. Keep them abreast of new initiatives, projects, and goals, so that no one feels out of the loop.
3. Provide the Right Tools. Giving your remote workers the tools they need to communicate with each other and the office ensures that technological disconnects don’t affect the flow of communication. Provide your team with mobile devices to stay in touch.
Establish a Company Culture
When most of your workers are out in the field most of the time, creating a positive and engaging company culture can be a challenge. However, it is important to build camaraderie among your employees and keep them in the loop in terms of your company’s values, mission, and ways of doing business. That’s why it is important to have regular in-person check-ins; even if some of your team needs to join via Skype or FaceTime, it’s important to give your employees the chance to see each other and put faces to names, and have the chance to bond with each other. Use these meetings as an opportunity to share your company’s core values with your team, and find ways to demonstrate them.
It’s also important to treat all of your employees with respect. It goes without saying, but it’s especially important for remote workers to feel as if their employers respect them and value their contributions. When you work out in the field and don’t have much opportunity to interact with co-workers and leaders, it’s easy to feel as if you are being taken for granted or just another a cog in the wheel. Leaders need to make an effort to recognize this isolation, and find ways to acknowledge work. Even if it’s just a regular phone call or email to check in and say hello, don’t let your remote workers feel like they’ve been forgotten.
Managing remote healthcare workers is more than simply setting clear expectations and goals, creating clear work plans, and monitoring performance. For a healthy and functional workforce, you need to focus on communication, camaraderie, and culture, giving your team the tools and technology they need to be productive and meet standards. When you do, your remote workforce will be more loyal to your organization and your agency will run more efficiently and be more likely to meet your goals.
Complia Health has a wide array of software products to help home health agencies improve the management of all employees and provide better care to patients. Check out our white papers to learn how we can help.