Anyone who’s worked in the South Bay home care industry has heard the response from healthcare professionals and families many times. It goes something like, “You guys all staff caregivers. I know the individual worker makes a difference, but aren’t agencies basically the same other than rates?”
Admittedly, there’s some truth to the statement. The unique traits of each caregiver make a huge difference in the quality of care. And some caregiver companies do operate primarily as “match-makers,” providing little management oversight and coordination.
But other Torrance home care agencies do take a more proactive approach. And these outliers make a real difference in the lives of patients and families seeking top-quality care—especially for those with complex diagnoses and needs. So, the question for these folks is, “What distinctions do exceptional agencies possess and how do we identify those companies?”
Let’s look at two home care agency virtues that matter in the real world and explore how select agencies credibly exercise them.
Any Torrance caregiver company with decent marketing will tout its “accountability” measures. But as they say, talk is cheap. Families need to ask direct questions and pinpoint whether the company takes specific actions to deliver on its promise. Home care agencies that have real accountability leverage the right tools and institute proven policies, including the following:
Quality Assurance – How does a prospective home care agency conduct quality assurance or does it? Responding to complaints and “putting out fires” doesn’t count. QA should be proactive and comprehensive. And, ideally, it will be led by an objective, third-party organization. After all, a company conducting it’s own QA faces an inherent conflict of interest.
Home Care Pulse, for example, is a leading third-party QA company that focuses specifically on surveying home care agency clients and employees. Select agencies, such as BrightStar Care of Torrance, take advantage of their services. But many caregiver companies don’t enlist the help of any third-party QA firm.
Director of Nursing Oversight – Some families are shocked to hear their Torrance home care agency provider relies entirely on non-medical staff from top-to-bottom. While these folks understand their caregiver is not a licensed nurse, they assume the company at least has management with nurse licensing or other clinical credentials. These caregiver operations therefore beg the question, “Who is leading the assessment and care management for my loved one?”
A handful of South Bay caregiver companies, including BrightStar Care of Torrance, solve this problem by employing a Director of Nursing (Registered Nurse). This licensed medical professional leads start-of-care assessments and also provides ongoing care management. She’s even available to address issues and emergencies in real time.
Joint Commission Accreditation – Many people, including seasoned healthcare professionals, don’t realize home care agencies can acquire Joint Commission accreditation. The Joint Commission is a private organization that audits hospitals, nursing facilities, and other medical providers. But select home care agencies, albeit very few, voluntarily submit to their oversight as well.
Some Torrance caregiver companies will brush off the value of Joint Commission accreditation if asked. They typically say the extra accountability isn’t needed, and that their internal policies ensure great quality of care anyhow. But once again, most people agree true accountability comes with third-party oversight. The Joint Commission performs onsite audits and shares the results, keeping participating home care agencies on their toes and honest!
Technological Tools – Believe it or not, some South Bay home care agencies still track caregivers’ hours via old-fashioned timesheets. While families may feel this lack of progress is insignificant to the quality of their loved one’s care, the truth is it makes a difference. Caregiver technology, and especially timesheet/payroll tools, have a real impact on clients. First, they prevent over-billing. And second, they improve caregiver reliability.
BrightStar Care of Torrance, for example, has an advanced smartphone app that caregivers use to clock-in/clock-out of shifts. The process creates a timestamp that both promotes billing accuracy and holds caregivers accountable for arriving to work on time. In addition, the technology’s GPS capabilities even ensure workers are onsite at clients’ homes!
As with the topic of “accountability,” many Torrance home care agencies will proudly cite their “care management” service. But the term is used loosely, and in the opinion of some healthcare professionals, often misapplied. While most companies that fall into this “misapplied” category have good intentions, the nuance makes a difference for families and clients. With that said, true care management should always include the following offerings:
Director of Nursing Oversight – We previously discussed the critical role of a home care agency’s licensed Director of Nursing. This person conducts start-of-care assessments and provides general oversight. But she also leads care management efforts. It only makes sense that care management should be led by an actual (licensed) nurse expert rather than office personnel or company representatives.
As a point of reference, BrightStar Care of Torrance’s Director of Nursing periodically visits clients to conduct reassessments. During these visits, she assesses their health and checks vital signs to compare them with baseline levels from prior assessments. If their disease/s seem to be progressing or if their health is declining, the Director of Nursing will make recommendations to the family and patient, which may include scheduling a doctor’s appointment.
Skilled Nursing Resources (RN, LVN, Therapy) – South Bay home care agencies typically provide “non-medical” caregiver services. They perform critical functions that assist clients with “activities of daily living” (ADLs) and dramatically improve quality of life while promoting safety and well-being.
BrightStar Care of Torrance has a similar focus and utilizes caregivers in much the same way. However, as an agency that provides true care management, the company also has other resources available if necessary. For example, clients sometimes need skilled nursing services that require a licensed nurse (RN or LVN).
BrightStar Care of Torrance and other select agencies can provide this higher level of care when appropriate. But most South Bay home care companies lack skilled nursing resources and are ill-equipped to accommodate clients’ additional needs. So, they may claim to provide “care management,” but they simply don’t have the capability to address the very issues they intend to “manage.”
At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why many families believe all home care agencies provide similar products. But the real value in professional caregiver services comes from specific virtues, including “accountability” and “care management.” After all, if an agency were only playing “match-maker,” then families could just find their own caregiver via a smartphone app or website. And those select home care agencies that “put their money where their mouth is” are most capable of delivering on promises.
If you’re seeking a caregiver for a patient, family member, or friend in Torrance, Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, or the nearby areas, be sure to contact BrightStar Care today for a free assessment from our Director of Nursing!