Starting a new business is a challenge in any industry – but as those of us in homecare know, opening a new agency is among the toughest. New agency owners are faced with a dynamically changing regulatory environment, on top of building a census and staffing cases.
There are several things to consider when you’re opening or expanding a homecare agency. As a registered nurse who’s worked in both hospitals and homecare environments, I’ve seen the pitfalls and triumphs of new agency owners. Here are a few ways I believe agencies can ensure success from Day 1:
There are many state and federal regulations that providers must comply with – and these rules tend to change often. Initially for an agency, there’s a lot to learn, and your business is at stake if anything falls through the cracks. That’s why it’s essential to work with a compliance officer, especially during the beginning stages of business.
It can take up to three years to become a licensed agency. During this approval period, the Department of Health (DOH) will investigate your business to ensure you’re in compliance with the latest regulations. However, navigating the DOH and the application process can be a headache, and many agency owners start the process without thoroughly understanding all regulations and mandatory procedures. A compliance officer will not only take the burden of extensive research off your shoulders, but he or she will also help guarantee your agency’s survival until licensing.
Compliance officers can also help agencies avoid the steep – and sometimes detrimental – fees associated with not following regulations properly. For example, in New York, the Medicaid Directive can now charge $5,000 per day per incident for not complying with Medicaid regulations. Since compliance guidelines are always changing, it’s imperative to adapt as needed – not only to avoid fines, but to also maintain a good reputation. The DOH audits providers’ clients regularly to look for mistakes. In New York, their findings are made available through a public report card, which potential clients can easily access online.
The best way to grow a new agency is to create strategic partnerships with local clinicians that may refer clients to you. In this industry, relationships are a very valuable asset when expanding business – they often provide word of mouth marketing without a hefty price tag.
At the very start of your business, building a steady client base won’t happen quickly. However, a promising sign that your agency will thrive past its start-up phase is that clients are beginning to come to you. Maintaining a good reputation with your strategic partnerships is key to ensuring this outcome.
The most important piece to your agency’s pie is the client. However, as an agency owner, you may not get to interact with clients as often as you’d like. Your aides are essentially the face of your business to clients, so it’s crucial to hire high-quality, compassionate caregivers.
As the homecare industry grows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire and retain the best aides. New agencies should prioritize finding aides who genuinely love caring for those who need it, and then focus on keeping them satisfied to reduce turnover.
Many new agencies tend to hire quantity over quality, as they want to ensure they have the bandwidth to support their growing client base. The most promising agencies will dedicate a substantial amount of time in selecting the right people to represent their business – even if it means slowing growth down a bit in the short term. In turn, the outcome is worth it.
By working with a compliance officer, strategizing early for growth and building the right team, your agency can be well on its way to obtaining licensing, generating revenue, and making a difference in many people’s lives. The homecare industry may be complex with many changing regulations and increased competition, but it can be an incredibly rewarding and prosperous field if you steer your agency toward success with an informed approach.
See how Bronx-based Mrs. G’s Services grew its homecare business.
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