Home Care Heroes Blog

The Home Health Care Agency of the Future

Today's entry comes from guest blogger Heather Rooney from H2 Marketing.  At the bottom is a link where you can learn more about Heather and her team.

Heather Rooney

The Agency of the Future: Empathy. Innovation. Execution.

January 8, 2010 by Heather Rooney

Home care is in the midst of a strategic inflection point - a moment when multiple factors are coming together simultaneously, each with the independent ability to fundamentally change the way that businesses operate. In the midst of this defining moment, healthcare is center stage and home care is playing a particularly significant role. 

While our industry has undergone dramatic evolution in the past, this time it is different.  Healthcare has risen to the top of our national consciousness, with substantial attention focused on care for the chronically ill.  One only has to look at the statistics to understand why - Over 75% of healthcare dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic condition, and over 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease.  According to the 2009 Obama Healthcare Plan, chronic conditions cost $1.7 trillion every year.  Moreover, these statistics are only expected to rise as baby boomers continue to age.

On the one hand, the market is ripe for "disruption" (Clayton Christensen, The Innovator's Solution), a time when new market entrants deliver solutions to problems that the established players have chosen to ignore.  Most of the profitable growth trajectories in history have been initiated by disruptive innovations.  In contemporary society, just look to Amazon.com and Netflix for quick examples of disruption.  In healthcare, we can already observe early signs of potential disruption. With favorable demographics and a growing national awareness about the challenges associated with a chronically ill patient population, vendors and providers are actively developing novel approaches including pioneering technologies and new models of care.  From giants of industry like GE and Intel to small start-up companies, organizations of all sizes are looking to carve their place the home care market.

While the disruptive potential is significant, home care possesses an extraordinary opportunity in the midst of this strategic inflection point.  Experts at working with the chronically ill patient population, home care providers are uniquely capable of delivering solutions to our present day problems.  The ideal scenario is to have an established company initiate disruptive innovation - this is a nearly unstoppable force! The key is being willing to cast aside conventional ideas about "the way things have always been," and be willing to bravely try something new. Just like the book Who Moved My Cheese, winning providers will understand that the "cheese" is changing and the time has come to step out into the maze in search of the next "blue ocean" (Blue Ocean Strategy).

The "Who Moved My Cheese" Moment

The book Who Moved My Cheese provides an exceptional illustration of the challenges and opportunities that we are experiencing in today's healthcare environment. The book refers to two sets of mice in a maze - both recognize that their block of cheese is dwindling.  The difference lies in how they choose to address the problem. The first two mice make the decision to stay with their current cheese as long as possible. The second set of mice realize that the current block of cheese cannot sustain them forever, and they make the courageous decision to venture out into the maze in the hopes of finding a new block of cheese.   In the end, the first set of mice is too weak to search for new cheese after holding on to their current cheese for too long. The second set of mice successfully locates a new block of cheese, and they continue to thrive with sufficient nourishment having been brave enough to face the unknown. 

This parable is appropriate for our current home care environment, as the "cheese" has been changing for some time and signs point to continued "cheese movement." In recent months, we have observed efforts to reduce hospital readmissions through potentially bundling of payments and monitoring of the transition process from acute to sub-acute settings (CARE Transitions). Recent programs have provided for increased care coordination through the Medical Home Demonstration Project and the Chronic Care Improvement Project. The new Independence At Home Initiative aims to facilitate more comprehensive in-home service delivery for the chronically ill home bound population. And, all of these programs have occurred in the context of ongoing cuts in reimbursement and movement toward pay for performance across the continuum.

As we consider our recent past and look to the future of home care, we must acknowledge that our current system is evolving.  From cuts in Medicare reimbursement to new models of care, our nation is focused on identifying methods of caring for the aging population with optimal quality and maximum efficiency.  Ultimately, the "cheese" is moving, and it is up to us to make conscious decisions about how we choose to proceed.  It is important to note that this concept does not just apply to Medicare-certified home health agencies; rather, it will affect everyone that touches the aging population - home health, hospice, private duty, HME/DME, infusion, adult day care centers, and many more. 

Challenge = Opportunity

Change is upon us, and the only certainty is uncertainty - at this exact moment (January 1, 2010), we do not know what the final version of healthcare reform will entail and how it will specifically affect home care providers. Moreover, the landscape for aging-in-place and home centered care will continue to be defined over the next several years as we attempt to identify the ideal method of caring for this unique population.

As we sit in the midst of this uncertainty, it is up to us to proactively position our industry for a future full of opportunity. It begins with the recognition that our current challenges present a substantial opportunity for growth, development and change.  With this shift in mindset - from fear to adaptation - we open our collective consciousness to the ample supply of opportunities that lie ahead.  Furthermore, we begin to release our grip on the dwindling cheese so that we are free to consider the abundant supplies of cheese that are right in front of us. 

In essence we can start the process of transforming into the "agency of the future" today - and it begins with a critical shift in mindset.  The agency of the future will look into the maze with enthusiasm and excitement tempered by humility and caution. This agency will recognize that the road ahead requires creativity, as there are no templates to follow. The agency of the future will carefully traverse the "road less traveled" looking for new opportunities, overcoming obstacles, and persisting even when the path seems difficult.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost


Although seemingly simple and obvious, the road less traveled can be challenging to navigate as it requires a special blend of organizational attributes designed to turn challenges into opportunities: empathy, innovation and execution. 

Want to read more? The above article is an excerpt from the latest H2 Marketing whitepaper entitled The Agency of the Future - Empathy. Innovation. Execution. This whitepaper is the first in a series of whitepapers focused on the defining characteristics of the agency of the future. To download the complete copy of this new whitepaper, click on the following link: http://www.h2-marketing.com/pdfs/The_Agency_of_the_Future.pdf

H2 Marketing

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