Managing Home Healthcare Worker Safety
A well-planned home healthcare worker risk management program is paramount to an agency’s ability to quickly identify and respond to traveling staff safety issues. Most home healthcare workers are alone when they travel to appointments and while onsite with the patient. According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:
“Risk management is especially problematic in home care because each home is, in essence, a worksite, yet all the necessary healthcare workplace protections for both workers and patients may not be in place or readily available.”
Home healthcare workers report a wide range of safety issues that include violence or the threat of violence, unsanitary and unsafe household conditions, occupational hazards, and travel complications.
Home Healthcare Worker Risk Management
The home healthcare worker job site is typically at the patient’s home or in the employee’s vehicle. While working remotely, these employees do not have the benefit of facility management to provide sanitary and safe conditions, or security oversite to protect the worker like they would in a medical facility. This increases the risk of safety occurrences that home healthcare workers encounter.
Reported home healthcare worker safety and security concerns and incidents usually fall into one of three categories: traveling to and from the appointment site, conditions within the patient’s home, and occupational hazards that occur when treating patients.
Traveling To and From The Appointment Site
Any time home healthcare workers travel to an appointment, there is the risk of accidents and vehicle break-downs that can impact their safety. Also, home healthcare workers may be traveling into dangerous or unfamiliar areas where they risk getting lost, unknowingly parking in unsafe areas, or encountering threatening neighbors or loiterers on the street. This can lead to very unsafe worker conditions. It is important for agencies to:
- Know in real-time exactly where the worker is or has been at any point in time
- Establish workflows that alert management to unexpected long appointments, workers traveling outside of their defined geography, and when the worker leaves or reaches their home location
- Send safety messages about changing weather conditions, unexpected road closures, and other unforeseen situations that could impact traveling employees
- Provide GPS navigation tools that help workers get to and from their appointments
- Configure mobile forms that can link to onsite images and be filled out for accidents or reporting other safety incidents.
Violence and Unsafe Conditions in the Patient’s Home
Home healthcare workers may face violence or the threat of violence while on patient visits. Often this comes in the form of verbal abuse by unstable patients, or other household members, that can escalate into physical violence if not handled properly. Workers also experience threats and attacks from vicious household pets and encounter the presence of guns and illicit drugs in the homes.
Other unsafe conditions in the home may include dirty and cluttered living spaces that increase the risk for slips, trips, and falls. Environmental conditions such as overheated room temperatures, poor indoor air quality, and unsanitary conditions (e.g. improper disposal of medical supplies and the presence of insects and rodents) that increase safety risks for workers. With the number of safety and sanitary risks it is important for agencies to:
- Provide home healthcare workers with a variety of ways to communicate emergency situations from their mobile device including voice, text and mobile forms that trigger alerts at the office.
- Configure mobile forms that can be used to document non-emergency safety, security or unsanitary conditions
- Provide the capabilities to take pictures of on-site conditions and send with mobile form data back to the office
- Require immediate reporting of safety and security incidents using mobile forms
As if safety and security concerns traveling to and from the appointments, and onsite conditions are not enough, home healthcare workers also encounter occupational hazards from their job. Injuries can happen from lifting patients, needle sticks, latex sensitivity, bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards and other perils of the job. Agencies can use technology to:
- Validate home healthcare worker locations and date and time that the incident occurred, using GPS and date/time stamps
- Immediately report job site injuries with mobile forms and further document using pictures at the scene of the incident
Technology to Reduce and Respond to Safety Concerns
What can agencies do about home healthcare worker risk management when there are so many unpredictable safety and security concerns? Many organizations are turning to mobile app solutions to increase visibility into home healthcare worker locations and activities. By using technology to focus on the mobile worker, agencies are improving productivity and mitigating risk of safety instances with automatic safety alerts, wireless forms for immediate incident documentation, GPS location intelligence, and validation of worker visit lengths and times.
For example, a large children’s hospital with a tertiary care center provides in-home healthcare services to special needs children in the southwestern United States. Their 160 traveling nurses use StreetSmart Mobile Workforce Apps to improve nurse safety. Some of the capabilities they use include:
- GPS Location Services to track and time stamp mobile nurse’s current location and previous route, during their daily in-home visitation schedule
- Trips to manage mileage tracking and reimbursement of personal vehicle expenses
- Alerts to notify administrators of unexpected location changes, missed appointments, or visits that went longer than expected
Read the full Case Study
Home healthcare worker security and safety is an ongoing concern for agencies and requires constant surveillance and assessment to ensure the well-being of their employees. Learn how your organization can improve home healthcare worker risk management processes and procedures using StreetSmart mobile app technology.