Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homecare Scheduling and the Mobile Phone Market

By Tom Voiles
Cell phones have certainly transformed our lives. The family phone is going away, replaced with individual, direct lines of communication. As a parent, I've seen the change from conversations with friends dominating the home telephone to most of the kids' friends not even knowing that number. In some ways it's a problem I miss: it used to be that a boyfriend would have to run the gauntlet of speaking to us parents before getting through. Now, we have to ask "who's that texting you during dinner?".

The next big transformation in this area is the proliferation of smartphones. These web devices are really tiny, powerful computers that can do most of what their desktop and laptop cousins can do, plus you can make a phone call!

In the Home Care setting, where mobility is a fact of life, mobile devices are increasingly changing the way staff and caregivers interact, but it's not happening uniformly. There are still many markets where significant numbers of caregivers do not have a cell phone, while others where everyone has a cell phone and many (if not most) have smartphones.

US Mobile Phone Install Base
A recent article in Business Insider shows the trends of smartphone penetration in the United States. It reveals that there is still a huge part of the populace that doesn't have a smartphone. The trend is heading strongly upward but it's uncertain how fast or how complete that transformation will be in the next few years.

For home care scheduling providers like Shoshana Technologies, this represents a big unknown. The promise of caregivers using their smartphones to provide information from the field is great, but it takes a critical mass of caregivers having them before it becomes something that home care agencies can make use of in large numbers.

For many (if not most) agencies, the additional cost of providing these devices to caregivers is out of the question. The real transformation will happen when ownership of smartphones among caregivers is so prevalent that it can be made a condition for employment without scaring away good caregivers.

As smartphones become the norm, look for lots of additional options in terms of what caregivers can do in the home. The possibilities are truly exciting! Entering care notes, attendance tracking, scheduling and documentation operations, location tracking, route management, avenues for training and education, etc.\

These changes are coming in any case. The main question is how broadly they will be available to our customers (home care agencies). These tools will make it possible for small and medium sized agencies to compete and continue to provide excellent care to their clients, a crucial element in a future with great care for all.

About the author: Tom Voiles is the president of Shoshana Technologies. He has been working with Home Care professionals providing technology and business support for over 20 years. Shoshana Technologies' Rosemark System is the premier online software for home care agency management.

Angil Tarach-Ritchey can be reached for questions or comments at Angil@behindtheoldface.com or other contact options at http://www.behindtheoldface.com

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