Podcast: Outlook for 2022—High-Quality Healthcare Starts With High-Quality Education

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In this episode, we welcome CareAcademy’s very own Founder and CEO, Helen Adeosun. Helen shares themes we will be exploring as a company and industry in 2022, including recognizing education as a healthcare intervention and the critical need to provide education and share data across the circle of care. How do we ensure direct care workers are receiving the support they need to perform their critical role and drive better health outcomes? How do we support caregivers of all kinds—including family caregivers—with the knowledge and skills to provide high-quality care? Tune in to find out!

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Aaron Dun  

You are now listening to Home Care On-Air, brought to you by CareAcademy. Strap in as we dive headfirst into the future of home care, and the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing home care operators in a post-pandemic world.

Welcome, my name is Aaron Dun, SVP of Marketing for CareAcademy, the industry’s leading provider of care enablement solutions designed to manage your agency’s training and compliance requirements. In today’s episode, we’re talking with CareAcademy Founder and CEO, Helen Adeosun, specifically about her outlook for 2022 and the themes we are exploring as a company. With so much talk about supporting direct care workers and family caregivers across the industry and in the halls of the federal government, this is a momentous time for all of us. Helen, welcome to the podcast!

Helen Adeosun  

Thank you so much, Aaron, for having me. Really excited. Happy New Year. There’s a ton to talk about, and super excited to talk about it.

Aaron Dun  

So I know we’ve talked about this before, but you know, I’d love your perspective, it feels like we’re in a bit of a meaningful moment here. Do you agree with that?

Helen Adeosun  

I absolutely do. I think this is a pretty meaningful moment. And it’s gratifying that we’re finally talking, definitely not just as an industry, but really as a community at large about the role of caregivers and the important role that they play throughout health care, right? One of my favorite articles, and I will allude to it a lot, you know, just in terms of my thoughts about how education really shows up in this moment. But really, it frames that home health aides, folks who are caregivers are essential to health care, particularly as care moves into the home and community-based services, that’s increasingly true. There were already really clear industry signals in this direction, pre-pandemic, right. And we’ve acknowledged them several times. I think the last time I was back on the show, last time I was on the show, we talked about some of those things. And then really COVID accelerated the demand for healthcare in the home. Everything from home health to telehealth to, you know, what we were calling the hospital in the home opportunities, and that’s placing enormous pressure in our community of caregivers, right. But herein lies the challenge and the opportunity: The challenge is that we need to broaden our outlook on who is doing healthcare. And really, the opportunity really lies in empowering them with the right skills and right toolsets.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, I think that oftentimes, when we see this kind of a massive industry shift, and you know, regardless of whether or not the pandemic caused it or accelerated it–I think we’re all feeling like it was an acceleration point–but, you know, usually technology leads, right, we see, you know, a whole bunch of companies coming to the fore, investments being made. And we’re seeing all the headlines today about, you know, investments being made in new technology, but how do we also focus on innovation to support the people who are really delivering that care? You know, I’d love your perspective, as we look ahead to 2022 about the kinds of innovations that we could be seeing to address the people side of that equation.

Helen Adeosun  

That’s right. I think sometimes in healthcare technology, and this industry that we’re so really intimately familiar with, we forget that, you know, the folks who are not only being provided the care are people, but the folks who are providing care also people, right? And so, you know, I think that increasingly, 2022 will be an outlook on taking a really people-first and driven approach in terms of how we really leverage health care and better health care and quality health care. We really strongly believe that delivering high-quality health care starts with high-quality education that’s across the entirety of the long-term care continuum, our professional direct care workers, our family caregivers, everyone who works with a patient must have access to the educational supports necessary in order for them to provide care, right, and whether or not we’re educating or preparing folks, we have to acknowledge that everyone has a very indelible touch on patients, on family members, and on their outcomes. And I really believe that, you know, education, when you think about it, in those stark terms, is a true health intervention. Right. So education is absolutely a health intervention and will emerge increasingly as a health intervention in the moment that we’re in.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, that’s a really interesting way to phrase it. Helen, tell us a little bit more about what that means and how we should be thinking about education in the context of a health intervention?

Helen Adeosun  

Absolutely, I think about it multiple ways. And you know, spent a lot of time between eggnog and 31st, thinking and really sort of clarifying thoughts around this. But it means that, you know, as we’ve mentioned, it’s not only the direct care worker, it’s the family caregivers, it’s the entirety of the circle of care. It also means you have the traditional providers as well, that are all accessing tools that give them insight into the needs of either the patient or the family member. You know, one of the things we have to also remember as part of this sort of health care, circle of care is that everyone refers to the patient in different ways. So whether that’s a loved one or a patient, it’s giving folks access to tools that allow for them to show up powerfully to help manage the care of that loved one, of that family member. So often now, we focus on a lot of care coordination, you absolutely need that. And I’m so excited about the development of care coordination tools, but we should take that a step further, right, beyond just sort of coordinating of care–how are we helping to really manage care? Often we find out that the missing link for many caregivers, and what we hear over and over again, for both direct care workers and family caregivers is that, you know, they’re increasingly needing tools to not only coordinate care, but also to really sort of educate them on how to provide care.

Aaron Dun  

I think it’s really interesting that you’re bringing the concept of the family caregiver here, Helen, I think, you know, so often, and particularly in our work, we focused on the professional caregiver. And what we’re really seeing, and I think what you’re calling attention to is the need to think about the caregiving continuum more broadly than just a professional direct care worker, but also including the family caregiver.

Helen Adeosun  

That’s right. I absolutely want to highlight that, because I think we also, traditionally have talked about this in sort of either/or terms. When we talk about caregivers, I think a lot of folks, one, we find out from industry reports people don’t identify necessarily as caregivers, right? I’m on the board of an organization, an amazing organization called the Caregiver Action Network. And very often, you know, we’re finding that in different cultures, across sort of different segments of the population, people may not even use that term. But if we think about caregivers at large, it’s a whole span and an ever-increasing universe. That includes home health aides, and includes family caregivers, even if they don’t identify as such, and includes also community health workers. And I think that in order to have the most impactful effect on the lives of patients, we have to imagine that whole community and universe of what “caregivers” can mean.

Aaron Dun  

Which then leads us to the challenge of data, right? So how do we do that?

Helen Adeosun  

Yes, you know, it also means that in this world that we’re imagining, expanding universe, it’s providing the tools, and also the measures, it’s proving out something that we absolutely believe will be critical in terms of supporting the needs of caregivers, and will be impactful for the folks that they’re caring for. There’s a profound lack of data in the home care industry. And it’s something that, you know, we’ve internally at CareAcademy called, it’s a “data desert,” right? I am a huge Star Trek fan. So I’m going to utilize a lot of sort of analogies in Star Trek, but I really think that we are as a home care industry, the final frontier of where data emerges or needs to emerge on behalf of the patient to really improve health outcomes, right? And so when we think about the circle of care, that includes the consumer, it includes their loved one, includes those professional direct care workers in a whole host of flavors that we’re seeing. It means being able to provide the tools that also provide feedback loops on behalf of the patient, and with every single person involved in the care circle in mind, right? You know, we absolutely believe in the power of caregivers, and the tools that empower them need to fit directly into their lives. I’ve talked about this earlier on, but really taking a caregiver-centric approach to building real tools that offer real feedback, that offer real-time assessment, as well as data gathering and feedback for everyone else who’s a part of it the circle of care, right? That’s what education and those tools need to show up as on behalf of that circle of care.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, so you touched on that there. But let’s talk a little bit more about where education plays a role here.

Helen Adeosun  

Yes, absolutely. You know, we are a healthcare education intervention. And we believe that quality education enables quality care if you do it right. And we’re really excited about the ways that we imagine doing education. You know, through our work in this industry, we’ve identified a massive need not just to educate direct care workers, but also measure and connect that education directly to healthcare outcomes, right? When you asked me the question earlier about how tools show up, it is about creating feedback loops, that is something that we’re genuinely excited about. Like much of health care, home care suffers from a lack of systems and processes and technologies to really enable efficiency. So thinking about ways in which we build education, to be proactive, as well as reactive, I think is something that we absolutely are excited about that needs to become the standard within home care. CareAcademy comes in as the first resource to take someone as an applicant who is just getting started in caregiving– and we’ve had a number of initiatives around getting people started within home care, and being able to provide them with not only the training required, but also curating what their state or municipality needs too, to upskill them. So we think that that’s a really powerful way to curate education, it’s a powerful way to be proactive, as well as reactive to the needs of caregivers. And we’ve already, you know, got a really great start at doing that. And we’re thinking about ways at CareAcademy we can expand that universe even more.

Aaron Dun  

I think that when you think about the volume of caregivers that are needed, as conditions increase and what’s being addressed in the home, and being able to deliver not just general caregiving support, but specific caregiving support for maybe the type of disease condition or acuity. It seems like that is increasing as more and more care moves outside of the four walls of the hospital into the community.

Helen Adeosun  

That’s absolutely right. I think about the research, someone I’m deeply inspired by and I have, you know, a lot of folks in this world that I’m really inspired by, that’s Dr. Madeline Sterling, she’s done tremendous work as not only a clinician but also a researcher, really understanding how within that circle of care, direct care workers, family caregivers are often overlooked, and are also an opportunity to really provide hands-on, eyes-on direct interventions on behalf of patients. She’s done a lot of work, she shows up, she’s a cardiologist, and she published an article, a qualitative research study with the American Heart Association just on how home care workers who’ve been trained in heart failure are more satisfied with their jobs and feel prepared and confident to work with heart failure patients. And I want to step back from that, right. When you teach a caregiver or a family member, not only generally, “Oh, you need to go ahead and care for this person.” But you say what that needs to look like and why, for instance, in the study, she called out the fact that, you know, with a community health worker, or a home health aide, one of the things that they needed to recognize is not feeding patients with cardiac heart failure, high sodium diets, right? That one bit of learning can translate to tremendous outcomes on behalf of the patient. And I recognize Dr. Sterling as being, you know, one of the foremost experts to advance the idea that those small interventions on a day-to-day level make such a huge impact as to whether or not someone will readmit back to the hospital. And that’s huge. So I think we have an opportunity as an industry to continue to expand that universe, beyond heart failure, looking at other ways in which we provide training and certification to direct care workers and family caregivers on this condition-based training, condition-specific training, to have more of an impact or difference in terms of real health outcomes on behalf of patients and loved ones.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, and I know we’ve done a lot of work and I know the industry is really focused on dementia care. And I think, you know, that sort of level of specialized education, but what you’re talking about is actually even going broader than that. Obviously, heart conditions, and it sort of opens up a whole new avenue here, I think. Correct?

Helen Adeosun  

Absolutely. And it opens up a whole new avenue in that while–I want to underscore that dementia training, we still haven’t sort of really scratched the surface around that, we want to go deeper–there are a number of other conditions that are emerging that just going as simply as managing, you know, diets, managing and having observations that can translate back to the circle of care, that would have tremendous impact, right. And so I think Alzheimer’s and dementia training is absolutely the first step. But then when you start looking at other conditions, we’ve thought about at CareAcademy are ways in which you can do that, right, and expand that universe. So our vision is that when the entire circle of care has access to that specialized education, they can offer that data back. And ultimately, by doing this, we’re mitigating the risks, reducing, really, healthcare costs, and potentially improving the quality of care, right, and doing that with data-driven approaches, ultimately. So it’s a win-win-win, right? We talk about this reimbursement story that’s emerging on behalf of long-term care supports; that data and that impact will fundamentally matter, right, and it starts with providing access to those tools and that training, including an expanded universe of condition-based supports.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, I think that’s really important, as we go forward and think about how we connect all these things together. But, you know, where are we today? As it relates to education and bridging the gaps in that knowledge? You know, do we have the data needed to connect that to health outcomes? You know, where do we stand today?

Helen Adeosun  

We are on the ground floor, right? You know, if you have any sort of love for Oregon Trail, this is a, you know, an old-school video game, we are definitely pioneering, right? We are again, as I mentioned, we’re in the final frontier, but this is very much still frontier territory. There’s a need to provide and think through that throughput, one, empowering and enabling that caregiver, elevating the caregiver. The very reason that I started this company was around the idea that I saw firsthand the impacts of a well-prepared, of a professional direct care worker, and imagined having that power leveraged in the millions of folks who provide care at some point in their lives, or are professional caregivers themselves. And, you know, as we’re talking about a world where we’ve got an ever-increasing number of people who are aging, want to remain in their homes, right? We’re currently around 60 million, in the next couple of years, we’re seeing 80 million–just the math of it all presents a challenge, we don’t have enough capacity within the workforce alone to meet the needs of those patients and of those older adults. There’s a tremendous opportunity to do that. And we think that starts in communities and with family members, right? And so I want to make sure that this industry thinks forward about providing the tools to enable, you know, the caregivers, millions of caregivers who are doing the work now, bringing in new caregivers in order to expand opportunity, and really thinking about ways that we engage in order to meaningfully provide impact for the health care of loved ones all over the world.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, it seems like the demand for care in the home is skyrocketing, as you noted, and we’ve published and we’ve certainly seen other studies that suggest the volume of new caregivers that need to enter the market. Do you think, are people coming around? You mentioned earlier, some of the programs that we’ve run to bring people into the industry. You’ve been doing this for a while. Do you feel like we’ve turned a corner here? Do we feel like, do you feel like people are sort of starting to come to this industry and recognize the mission and the opportunity?

Helen Adeosun  

I definitely think so. And I think, to some of the bullet points I highlighted earlier, I don’t think we have a choice, right? We’re in the middle of an imperative where, you know, we talk about the importance of caregiving, and it’s relatively unseen work. Now we have no choice to unsee it. It is directly in front of us, either as family caregivers ourselves–I can’t tell you, you know, anecdotally over the course of the last couple of years, the drumbeat of talking with different stakeholders involved with CareAcademy, and folks who are increasingly seeing themselves in a position of being a primary caregiver, right, where they’re interfacing with direct care workers, where they’re interfacing with the healthcare system on behalf of a loved one. So it is the unseen work that we cannot unsee anymore. There’s an imperative that’s emerging. And that’s showing up in public policy, it’s showing up in terms of how we think about expanded health care opportunities, and who does health care. And so I think the tide is turning, and you know, COVID has definitely accelerated that. But I think, you know, in this challenge, herein lies a very big opportunity. And I’m really excited that CareAcademy gets the opportunity to lean into that opportunity and lead from the front.

Aaron Dun  

I really love what you just said there, I really want to kind of come back to that the unseen work that we can’t unsee anymore. Like, that’s a really powerful statement. How has that shaped for you? And if you think about CareAcademy, but also your work in the industry? Okay, this is your life’s work, this is your passion, and we’re happy to share that with you. How do you think that manifests itself in 2022? As we move, hopefully, past “pandemic” into what people are now calling “endemic”–doesn’t feel that way today, but it feels like maybe we’re getting there–how does that manifest itself going forward?

Helen Adeosun  

I love that double meaning, right? It’s “end-emic,” in that we hope that pandemic is ending, but it’s also endemic, in that, you know, from a scientific perspective, that COVID is just COVID. And we live with it. Right? So wonderful double meaning there, I’m going to use that, Aaron. I’m really, really excited in that there’s–I’m always very optimistic about the world. And I just got off a telehealth call with my doctor today. And I remember thinking to myself at the end of that call, I’m like, this is not going away, right? He likes this, I like this, right? And I think that this pandemic has a lot of lessons that we also can’t unsee. And I think as part of this workforce, it’s imagining, very creatively thinking outside of the box, which actually ties back to one of CareAcademy’s themes this year of how we do healthcare, and healthcare is, you know, I don’t think anyone’s going to take offense to it or think that I’m sort of speaking out of turn, but it’s very slow, and has traditionally been very slow to catch up. And I’m excited about the paradigm shifts that have occurred, that we also cannot go back to the way things were in 2019. So really excited for that moving forward in terms of my own work, it’s a wonderful wave to sort of ride on and advocate for, and it’s great to see that we’re not doing that alone anymore. There are a lot of folks who are also focused on this kind of work.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, the genie’s out of the bottle, maybe would have taken longer to get here, but we’re in it, and we’re loving it. So, as we begin to kind of wrap up today’s session,  maybe I could ask for you to share maybe one wish for 2022, as we meet again this time next year, or as we’re starting to close out the year, what would you have hoped we’ve achieved as an industry for the year?

Helen Adeosun  

Yeah, I have a couple wishes. It’s like, roll out the list there. One, you know, looking at ways in which we formally recognize direct care workers. In a former life, I’ve worked in policy. And we saw this happen with nurses over the course of the last 100 years, right? Nurses were not sort of recognized as a vital part of the health care system. And now, we’re at the point that we’re applauding nurses over the last two or three years in terms of the work that they’ve been doing vitally. And I think direct care workers show up as frontline workers to make health care happen in the home. And so looking for ways in which, from a policy perspective, from an advocacy perspective, we are, you know, we’re showing up as a nation and a world that recognizes the importance of caregivers, and that means and not only the recognition there, but in terms of the policy, as well, as thinking about that career ladder, right? We’ve beat this drum within CareAcademy, we’ll continue to definitely beat this drum, but having more formal recognition of those career ladders, and that this is a career that ties itself directly into healthcare. The second one, the second wish, right, would be around providing more supports for family caregivers that meet their needs where they are. I think that, you know, we haven’t really scratched the surface. I think we’re getting to a better place where we’re directly connecting family caregivers with supports when they need it as they need it. It’s something that we’re super excited about and want to see more of. And I want to see more of as we are in the “end-emic,” as you called it.

Aaron Dun  

Yeah, I wish I could take credit for calling it endemic, but we’ll take credit for the double meaning, how’s that? Oh, this is great, Helen, I really appreciate your insights and your time. And thank you so much for joining us today. Any last words for our audience?

Helen Adeosun  

I am super excited for 2022. Happy New Year–I still can say that as of this recording–I really look forward to, you know, the excitement that should be generated out of the challenge and opportunity of elevating caregivers and bringing them closer to healthcare. And I really am excited to work with folks who are listening because I see you all as partners. So thank you so much.

Aaron Dun  

And that closes today’s podcast. Thank you to our guest and thank you to you, our listeners. Please visit www.careacademy.com to learn more. Be sure to subscribe for future updates wherever you get your podcasts and five-star reviews are always appreciated.

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