There are more than 18 million health care workers in the United States; 80% of them are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While women make up the vast majority of home health care workers, they are a minority in the C-Suite. Only 40% of the industry’s key decision-makers are female.

Homecare is a tough space to succeed in, and while org charts may not reflect it, this industry is loaded with strong, determined women doing incredibly meaningful work — they simply don’t get the recognition they deserve!

Here at HHAeXchange, we’d like to take one small step towards changing that. ‘Extraordinary Women in Homecare’ is a series of feature articles designed to celebrate women who bring strength, passion, and creativity to their roles in the home care industry.

We recently spoke with Vicki Roberts, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at AccordCare. As a private duty homecare and home health care provider serving eight states along the eastern seaboard and more than 3,000 clients, AccordCare’s staff and 4,000+ caregivers are committed to clinical excellence and building clinical programs tailored to the unique needs of every client. In this article, Vicki shares what excites her most about the homecare industry, why she loves change, and how she stays grounded under stress.

Tell us about your role at AccordCare.

I run our strategy department, with a focus on integration management. AccordCare has made seven acquisitions in the last three years. Our vision is to expand our geographic footprint while growing our client and caregiver population. Size and scale will support AccordCare, and the homecare industry in general, as it will enable us to partner with managed care providers and even Medicare Advantage to deliver care.

Part of what makes AccordCare different is our focus on clinical excellence. We really want to bridge the gap by building clinical programs, tracking the right metrics, capturing that clinical information, and measuring outcomes – even on the private duty side.

What brought you to the homecare industry?

I’ve always been passionate about the healthcare industry and spent the first 10+ years of my career on the payer side. I wanted to get closer to the delivery of care and the patient where I could make a more meaningful impact, specifically for the aging population. AccordCare’s mission and the opportunity to join an organization focused on keeping people in the comfort of their homes while providing high quality care was a great fit. There is so much opportunity in homecare to impact the lives of our clients and their families.

How has your experience on the payer side of the industry prepared you for your current role in homecare?

Coming from the managed care payer side has really helped me understand some of the complexities in homecare. I was working for one of the largest payer systems in the country, doing similar projects – large scale, strategic initiatives in the commercial space. Understanding the complexities of the payer sources, and knowing what those payer sources need in a provider partner, was really helpful experience in transitioning over to the provider side.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

Impacting change! I love change and challenging how we can make improvements for our caregivers and clients and move the homecare industry forward. There is tremendous opportunity to leverage technology in homecare, offer training and advancements for our caregivers, and use clinical data to provide custom care for clients. Whether it’s a back-office process improvement or new clinical program, I love being a part of changing for the better and seeing the impact we can make. 

What is one way that AccordCare is innovating to better serve those seeking homecare services?

One area we’ve seen tremendous growth in is our veteran population. We created an internal committee around veteran engagement. On the client side, we considered how we should target this unique and underserved population and service them in the best way. From a back office and corporate perspective, we wanted to create an internal culture of being military and veteran friendly. We track the veteran engagement of our employees, and we’ve trained our recruiters on how to best communicate with this population specifically. We’ve also created a client recognition program where we recognize our veteran clients for their service. I love being able to make a difference in this way.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing homecare agencies in 2023?

Staffing is the number one challenge we’re facing today and it’s not a short-term obstacle. We know the demand for homecare is increasing faster than the workforce can support. We must work hard to be the employer of choice, invest in our caregivers, and leverage technology to make our workforce as efficient as possible. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and we’re going to be focused on staffing for the long term. As an industry, we must elevate the role of the caregiver and invest in this workforce. It’s exciting to see that focus across homecare as we get innovative on recruiting, retention, and career growth opportunities.

Another challenge, that really excites me personally, is the care continuum expansion within homecare. We see healthcare as a whole seeking more affordable and efficient care delivery while we have an aging population who wants to receive that care at home. Collectively as an industry, we must explore through clinical programs, partnerships, and technology how we can meet that demand in a scalable way.

Caregiving is tough, emotionally draining work. How does AccordCare keep its caregivers satisfied and engaged on the job?

Caregiving is tough and caregivers who have been in this industry through the last several years are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met.

At AccordCare, we are laser-focused on building a culture that recognizes our employees and values the work our caregivers do every single day. We’re doing a lot from an employee engagement perspective to achieve that goal. For example, we offer our caregivers a full benefit package including paid time off and sick leave. We have an employee recognition program that honors our caregivers and nurses throughout the year, and we host an annual awards ceremony. We’re also always connecting with our caregivers through bi-weekly companywide Town Hall meetings, twice a year employee surveys, employee performance review conversations, and training opportunities.

It’s important to us that our caregivers feel like they are a part of the AccordCare family. That can be challenging when our caregivers spend their time in clients’ homes but as we have created a sense of community, our caregivers have responded well.

Do you feel that technology is embraced at your agency? Why or why not?

We are really leaning into technology and fully embracing how it can support our mission. It’s not without its challenges, but we must leverage technology to provide the best care efficiently and in a scalable manner. As we have caregiver shortages but rising demand for homecare, technology is a big part of the solution.

We are fully mobile enabled for our caregivers to receive schedules, document care, and communicate with our office staff. We’ve piloted virtual assessment visits, remote patient monitoring partnerships, and even adopted battery operated pets to keep our clients company (a personal favorite of mine!).

How do you handle the stress of your role?

I try to keep the perspective that the work I’m doing is easy compared to the caregivers who spend their hours caring for our clients. That is the truly hard work, the impactful work – they are connecting with an individual and helping that person live their best possible life every single day.

Also, I get up every single morning and go outside for a run! It’s my time to clear my head, focus on the work ahead, and set the tone for the day. Spending time outside and running are two of my personal passions.

Outside of work, what’s something else that you’re passionate about?

I’m a Girl Scout Troop leader. My daughter is in the sixth grade, and I’m very big on helping her see herself as a leader. It’s really exciting to me, both in my professional life and through that, to elevate women leadership and build that next generation of women leaders.

What’s the best advice you could offer someone new to the homecare industry?

Remember the “why”. Homecare is hard work on all fronts but always coming back to the “why” is important. We are working hard so that people can live in the comfort of their own home or live with their families. We really are changing lives every day. That makes every hard day worth it.

What do you think is in store for the future of homecare?

The future of homecare is bright! I see homecare becoming a standard for care delivery as we move away from facility-based care, not just for long term but even routine healthcare. Homecare services are starting to get the attention and recognition they deserve for both affordability and quality. To keep pace with that shift, we have to embrace technology as an enabler and advocate for our workforce. It is really exciting to see so many people in homecare that share a passion for the future – technology providers, agencies, advocacy groups, conveners, other care providers… everyone is at the table together working to solve for the future.