Agility needed for a changing aged care sector

Apr 17
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Remember the days of excessive mobile phone bills? For most of us those days are gone, as we ‘bundle’ our phone and data service. Home care pricing will likely follow a user-demand model, adjusting as providers and customers settle into the world of consumer directed care (CDC). 

Do more options equal greater choice?

Choice and flexibility for consumers are key priorities for Care Options. The ability to engage with people and find out what is really important to them can’t be underestimated. Our Home Care Package client, Norman Hill, was struggling to get out and about until we researched together and found a new light weight, collapsible scooter that easily fit in the boot of his car. Mr Hill’s package is flexibly priced, to enable optimal choice.  

Finding the optimal level of choice can be tricky though. A 2006 Harvard Business Review article from Barry Schwartz states “there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection” and that “excessive choice can produce ‘choice paralysis,’ but also that it can reduce people’s satisfaction with their decisions, even if they made good ones.” The famous jam experiment, published in 2000 by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, found that six varieties were more appealing than 24. The number had a huge impact on the likelihood of purchase. Other studies have confirmed this result: more choice is not always better.

Balancing choice and price

We are piloting a ‘bundled approach’ to home care, offering choice and flexibility to consumers, with increasing features and price. The challenge as an organisation is in preparing for the market changes and ensuring staff understand and can communicate what choice and flexibility is for consumers.

Finding the right people

We’ve chosen a different service delivery model for our packages, recruiting clinical staff and highly skilled customer service staff. We recruited an outstanding candidate, who had worked in retail banking for many years. Her banking background enabled her to work closely with consumers to develop and maintain their budgets, something colleagues and consumers have found incredibly valuable.

Can we please those seeking low cost and value?

We believe we can, but we need to go back to the beginning to do it effectively. Resounding feedback from home care consumers is that they want to be able to choose exactly when they receive services and who delivers them. This is achievable, but can be costly. Back to the ‘bundling’ of services. If we create ‘gold’, ‘silver’ and ‘bronze’ bundles of care, consumers can choose the level of flexibility they are willing to pay for. A gold bundle could offer services exactly when a consumer wants it, delivered by exactly who they want. A bronze bundle could offer the same quality service within a four-hour service window. Managing consumer expectations is key, which is why we have invested so much time into getting the right people, with the right attitude and skills to work in this way.

Agile pricing

To remain agile, we balance overheads with direct care costs. We have a comprehensive dashboard enabling us to see costs across the organisation, drilled down to almost any level. In this way we can work towards competitive pricing, whilst managing cost drivers. Key success factors for us have been: upskilling staff (and recruiting for new skills), understanding our cost drivers and consumer expectations. This trifecta has given us some agility, but we think of this journey like we do about yoga – we can always increase our skill and flexibility that little bit more…

Criterion’s series of Aged Care conferences cover topics including Choice & Control, Dementia, Retirement Living, Residential Aged Care and more. View upcoming events here.

Aged Care conferences

Submitted by Louise Forster

Louise Forster

Louise Forster is Executive Manager at Care Options. She has extensive sector reform knowledge as well as human services, leadership, governance and business qualifications. She also has over 20 years international experience in community services.

Louise has an accomplished diversified background in anthropology, training and management. She has worked in disability; community services; aged care; information services; people management and recreation, giving Louise a broad perspective on best practice, new approaches, policy and reform agendas. She is also a well-known and accomplished speaker.

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