The home healthcare industry has many challenges. When it comes to pediatric care, this is especially true.
Labor issues, for example, are exacerbated in pediatric home care. At the same time, there is a dire need for these types of services.
Solace Pediatric Home Healthcare, based in Denver, is an example of a company that has triumphed despite these challenges. Over the past two years in particular, the company has thrived by establishing strong continuity with patients and relying on the right technology partners.
“My vision for Solace is to be admired for the quality of our service, the friendliness of our employees, and the integrity and innovation of our work,” Solace CEO Darcie Peacock told Home Health Care News. . “Our team works incredibly hard to provide exceptional care and support to our families so they can live their best lives.”
Solace currently offers home, clinic, and school-based pediatric services in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, California, and Wyoming. It offers occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy services to children from birth to 21 years old.
HHCN recently sat down with Peacock to discuss the company’s journey, opportunities and challenges in pediatric home health and more.
HHCN: What were the planning challenges your teams faced during the pandemic, and how were they resolved?
Peacock: In the past, and during the pandemic, our main planning challenge was centered on clinicians. Initially, we would receive referrals and then refer to various spreadsheets to see which clinicians were servicing the area needed before we could even email those clinicians.
We then had to sit and wait to hear from them via email to approve the request. However, clinicians cannot constantly check their email and respond to requests while serving families. We weren’t using our resources effectively and efficiently, and that was affecting our clinicians as well. For example, we might have a clinician who responds first to pick up a patient, but towards the end of the day another clinician checks his schedule and happens to be working in the same area and also has an opening . So now we have a clinician driving half an hour to see this family when we already had someone in the area and could have worked more efficiently.
Prior to our partnership with [the scheduling tech platform] Skedulo, we had our first planning platform in just over a year or two. While it met our basic needs, we still ran into a few issues once we started scaling. We started looking for a new platform to solve this problem and came across Skedulo, which showed us that the technology platform we were looking for and needed actually existed. So once we got the demo up and running, we realized it was something that could solve our clinicians and scalability issues.
What other technology is the company looking to implement?
Our main objective now is to make the most of the technology we have and to make these systems communicate with each other.
We have many dreams of what we’re looking to do with this specific technology and every year we whittle down that list. We brainstorm and dream, meet the AP development team, and then dig deeper into these projects.
What are the biggest challenges facing pediatric home care providers? What needs to happen for these to be corrected, or at least mitigated?
The number one challenge is burnout. These clinicians work tirelessly to support their families holistically, it’s not just about providing the therapy service to the child. It is both the most rewarding and the most difficult aspect of the job. To really understand, you have to try to put yourself in their shoes. Your office is your car. In winter, you arrive and it’s really cold, you’re late and you text the next family that you’ll be there soon, you pull directions, start driving, maybe try to eat something on the way, answer a phone call, your car is finally warm and now you stop at the next house. This daily grind is exhausting.
To reduce burnout, we must do everything we can to lighten the extra burdens on our team. How can we reduce driving time? It does the clinician no good, does the company no good, and certainly does not help any family when our clinicians are behind a windshield. How can we streamline simple things like sending this text to the next family and pulling directions? There is no single answer to meet this challenge. It will take innovation, using our most valuable resources – our team members – more effectively.
If something can be automated, find a way to do it.
What are the opportunities ?
A specific opportunity for pediatric home service providers is to be able to develop strong continuity of care with their patients.
Continuity is so important for us to serve our families because a number of our children already have difficulty making connections. In the past, a clinician might not work with a family if, for example, the commute was too long. In this case, we would need to transition the family to a new provider to better serve the family and the clinician.
However, the child would then be immediately impacted because they have already bonded with that clinician and now have to start over, delaying their progress towards their goal. Being at home greatly facilitates continuity for families. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and for some families it’s easier for a provider to come see them than to go to a traditional doctor’s office. As a result, there is less risk of having to find a new supplier if unforeseen events occur.
Do you feel that home pediatric services are neglected?
This varies greatly from state to state. Some states actually invest in this service delivery model and some don’t. The benefits of in-home services are vast. In a clinic, you go out, say hello to mom and Johnny, bring Johnny back, and work with him for 30 minutes on the clinic equipment. Take him back to mom in the waiting room, tell him what you worked on today and he did well. See you next week.
In the house, you’re on the floor, working with Johnny to tug to stand on his couch, helping him learn to crawl up his stairs. Mom is there with you all the time. You show Mom, “Put your hands just above her hips and give her a little nudge. Good work! Just like that. Now, if he can practice this while you’re playing or watching TV, he’ll do it on his own in no time.
Just by this example you can see how much of a game changer working in the child’s natural environment with the family is. These children are progressing faster towards their goals, which puts them on a whole different developmental trajectory.
What helped fuel the company’s growth?
Solace succeeded because we focus on the good stuff. We focus on our employees and take care of them.
As a clinician myself, I know the hearts of clinicians and our team. They all want to provide the best care to their patients. For them to do so, I have to take care of them. It’s our job to remove any barriers they face so they can do what they love, what they went to school to do, which is to serve our families. Everything we do is concentrated here. This laser focus manifests itself in various ways. We leverage our technology, like Skedulo, to make their daily lives easier. We have a vehicle program, providing our clinicians with a fantastic mobile office. We dedicate time and resources to supporting our team so they have the mentorship, connections and opportunities to continue to advance their careers.
We were able to keep up with demand and business growth by leveraging our technology partnership with Skedulo. When we started working with them, we were doing about 2,000 visits per week by 120 clinicians to now 13,000 visits per week and 800 clinicians.
What are the next steps? What does a three-year outlook look like for the company?
I think Solace is just getting started.
There are more children than ever who need our services. We plan to continue investing in our team and platform so that we can continue to reach more and more families in the states we currently serve, as well as serve new communities in new states.
We are also looking for ways to pull together around our families in a more holistic way. We recently added a new line of services in Colorado – Family Caregiver Services – which we are also looking to continue to grow, as well as our School Based Services division based in Portland, Oregon. I truly believe we offer something unique and special at Solace and I look forward to keeping that at the heart of the organization as we add more clinicians and serve more families.