Online Speech Therapy2 MINUTE READ

Why Home Health Agencies Struggle to Staff Speech Therapy

Home healthcare is a vital lifeline for patients who’ve experienced illness or injury. The ability to receive a range of healthcare and rehabilitative services in the comfort of home, as opposed to a hospital or skilled nursing facility, is a convenient and affordable alternative for many patients. 

While speech therapy is routinely included in a patient's approved plan of care, many home health agencies (HHAs) struggle to adequately staff speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and provide service coverage. In this article, we’re going to review some of the common challenges HHAs face, and discuss innovative solutions currently being adopted by many agencies. 

Challenges Staffing Speech Therapy

Patient volume

Speech-language pathology is often one of the lowest volume services offered by HHAs, even when compared to other types of therapy services like OT and PT. This makes it challenging for many HHAs, especially smaller or midsize providers, to accurately forecast patient volume and anticipate SLP capacity and staffing.  

Geographic reach

HHAs often cover large geographic regions. With limited speech therapy capacity, HHAs can struggle to serve clients living in more rural or remote areas. As a result, many HHAs are routinely forced to turn away patients, and subsequently lose billable services due to their inability to meet care plan requirements.

Insurance contracts

Similarly, many lucrative insurer contracts are contingent on providing adequate speech therapy coverage and servicing larger geographic areas. This can prevent HHAs from partnering with insurance providers, as well as jeopardize their chances of winning bids. 

Scheduling availability

With only a handful of full-time SLPs on staff, matching their schedules to patient availability can be a logistical challenge. What’s more, valuable billable time is lost when SLPs spend a considerable portion of their day driving from one patient’s home to the next, especially if this time is being compensated by the HHA. 

Cost of full-time hires

Hiring full-time SLPs is expensive, These added costs can particularly affect the bottom line of small and midsize HHAs, which may not have the patient volume to maximize their SLPs’ time and schedules. 

SLP efficiency

You want to ensure your staff is operating top of license, and that their time and expertise are being utilized efficiently. Some medically-complex patients do require intensive, hands-on care, such as those with severe swallowing disorders or who require tracheostomy management. However, the majority of patients generally have less severe diagnoses that can be effectively treated with outsourced or virtual care. 

Scope of care

Speech therapy involves a wide scope of practice, covering many different speech, language, voice, and swallowing impairments. It’s imperative that patients are matched with an SLP who’s experienced and specialized in their area of need. This can be challenging with a small clinical team and potentially undermine patient outcomes and experiences. 

Continuity of services

Whether due to budgetary constraints or limited care plans, many patients stop receiving home-based treatment before their communication and swallowing difficulties are adequately addressed. This disruption to continuity of care can potentially exacerbate problems and undermine progress. 

How Expressable Online Speech Therapy Is Helping Home Health Agencies

Expressable partners with home health agencies to staff virtual, on-demand speech therapy. We address all the problems listed above by offering:

  • Access to our network of employed SLPs trained and experienced in providing effective teletherapy

  • Patient matching with an SLP specialized in their area of need

  • Flexible scheduling with availability during non-traditional hours, such as evenings and weekends

  • Affordable rates typically half the cost of traditional speech therapy providers

  • No long-term commitments or minimums - only pay for services rendered

  • Ongoing patient education and access to SLPs via secure text messaging to answer questions

  • Modern and secure technology that’s HIPAA-compliant

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