5 Powerful Stats Showing COVID-19’s Impact on Home Care

By Connor Kunz, Home Care Pulse

While the situation continues to turn on a dime, data is beginning to paint a more complete picture of what COVID-19 looks like for home care agencies.

The last three months have turned home care, society, and life in general upside down.

While the situation continues to turn on a dime, data is beginning to paint a more complete picture of what COVID-19 looks like for home agencies. To help agencies get context on their own experiences during this time, we’ve launched two surveys for agencies about the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

The first survey (link to first impact report) largely painted a picture of what things looked like in the early weeks of the pandemic. The second survey, which is ongoing, is designed to provide a quantitative look at the full impact of the pandemic so far and provide some insights on what to expect in the future.

To view the whole report, simply take 5 minutes to complete the survey and you’ll be directed to the report when you submit your survey.

However, we’ve snapshotted a few of the most telling data points here.

#1: 79% of home care agencies have applied for a PPP or EIDL loan.

This statistic lends itself to a sobering thought exercise: if you could somehow look into a crystal ball six months ago and learn that almost 4 out of 5 home care providers would shortly be applying for emergency government aid to stay in business, what would you assume would be the cause?

Many of us in this thought exercise, including myself, would probably have chalked it up to some unforeseen effect of PDGM, and we’d have been wrong.

What do we gain from this thought exercise, besides a moment of reflection?

It’s been said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Few of us could have predicted the events of the last few months. Among the many takeaways from this time, we need to reshape our concept of what it means to be prepared for an emergency and recognize that unlikely scenarios are only unlikely until they end up happening.

#2: 37% of agencies now report that they’ve had clients, caregivers, and/or staff diagnosed with COVID-19.

It’s been interesting to watch this number trend over time. When we launched the first impact survey on March 30th, that number was 12%. A month later on April 30th, it had nearly doubled to 22%.

Barring the event of a second outbreak, we hope to see this number level off rather than continue on its current trajectory.

In some areas, it’s been easy to try and “get through” the pandemic without a clear plan to handle the eventuality of clients or employees contracting COVID-19. A high percentage of agency owners still report being “unsure” what they’ll do if clients contract COVID-19.

Even as COVID-19 (hopefully) begins to wind down in most areas, it’s becoming harder to make the excuse that it’s unlikely to touch your agency.

#3: 76% of agencies say they’ve seen a drop in billable hours from COVID-19.

Of those agencies, most report losing about 20% of their hours before bottoming out, although some agencies report losing as much as 80% of their billable hours.

Just over 50% have seen those hours return fully. Those for whom billable hours have fully returned are typically saying the process of returning to normal billable hours took between 3-6 weeks, though for a few the process has been much longer.

Amid all this, it’s important to recognize that approximately half of the agencies still haven’t seen their billable hours return to normal. While many indicators show that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, we’re not out of the woods just yet.

#4: 51% of agencies say they’re planning to give remote work options to staff after COVID-19 is over.

Not everything that comes from COVID-19 is bad. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs and webinars, it’s also forcing new innovations, some of which are long overdue.

As nearly every business has been forced to take workers remote during the crisis, many have found that their employers are happier and more productive working at home.

(Obviously, it’s dependent on circumstances—those with small children at home, or without a designated workspace, might rightfully disagree.)

Erik Madsen, CEO of Home Care Pulse, has addressed the paradigm shift about monitoring employee performance that needs to happen before a business can embrace remote work:

“For too long, we’ve been measuring employee performance off the work we see them do—their input. We need to develop better ways of measuring their output—the actual results they’re driving—since that’s what matters anyway. The level of input required to produce that output might vary, and that’s okay.

“Focus on employee output, not employee input.”

#5: 49% of agencies plan to continue nontraditional visit formats after COVID-19 is over.

While it’s easy to overlook if you saw it in context of the entire Impact Report, this might be the most important number to come out of the report.

Nearly half of agencies we surveyed are interested in continuing visit formats and services they began to explore during COVID, which might include things like virtual visits, grocery drop-off only visits, and doorstep visits.

Before we get too excited, some of this might reflect cases in which agency owners plan to continue nontraditional visits in the event that COVID-19 is never fully eradicated as a threat, or at least remains a danger to seniors for a long time after it stops affecting most of society on a day-to-day basis.

However, we’ve talked to enough agency owners who plan to keep sweeping changes introduced during COVID to know that some of these responses are agency owners embracing new angles to their business model rather than simply continuing precautions for the foreseeable future.

Any changes to an established model take time and experimentation to get right, of course. But in an industry that has struggled with many of the same problems for years—low margins being a root cause of many of them—new visit formats and innovative approaches to services could be a game-changer.

It’s also possible that COVID-19 has changed public preferences and consumer habits in ways that turn previously unprofitable ideas into viable concepts.

We’ll continue to update you on this trend as it unfolds, but we’re hopeful that home care is turning a corner—not just on COVID-19, but in ways that will continue and accelerate its integration with the entire care continuum.

What’s coming next?

The best answer is that no one really knows, but right now there’s reason to be hopeful. From talking to hundreds of providers every day, the pulse we’re getting is that most agencies are settling into a sense of normalcy and security that hasn’t existed for a few months.