The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022

The longstanding direct support workforce crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to closures of critically needed services and a denial of access to community-based supports.
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Connections - 09.29.22

GoodLife U 2022: Tech-Enabled Service Models (part 2)

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This month we are excited to highlight a discussion about technology-enabled service models and explore what has been made possible thanks to the fast-paced tech industry (view the rest of the 2022 GoodLife U Vlog series). Since our last episode of the GoodLife U Video Blog, Dr. Mike Strouse was invited to sit on a panel for the Technology First Leadership Webinar Series, hosted by Tech First Shift on June 16, 2022 (read the transcript from the webinar).

The panel discussion revolved around culture and competency, and specifically how you create a culture that embraces technology in order to embed it in the delivery of care. As a result, it became clear that the panel members were uniquely being called upon to contribute to the development of policies that govern the use of technologies in intellectual and developmental disability care.

The Policy Problem

While GoodLife has uniquely used iLink Technologies for the last 20 years, it’s become increasingly clear that policymaking in regard to the use of technology in this industry is really behind. Now, as we hustle to catch up, we also face an unprecedented workforce crisis. Other industries have accepted and embraced what’s now possible with technology and because they are not as regulated as our industry, they are offering better jobs and attracting the best employees.

It’s not all bad and our industry is changing, too! With the Final Rule right around the corner, we will soon be required to do what we already know provides better lives for the individuals we serve. Our responsibility has always been to improve independence and deliver the best and safest care, but we increasingly cannot deliver the kind of care that we want to in the way we’ve traditionally done so, and under the current conditions.

Right now, policymaking is centered around having a person make a choice between virtual support and human support, but this is not the dichotomy that we should be going for.

From a legal standpoint, we are required to use the least intrusive, most effective care possible to improve self-direction, safety, privacy, choice and independence. The difference is that we now have technology we can weave into our service approaches—and if we do, we might be able to change the whole game, not just for the people we serve who deserve more, but also for the caregivers who make the delivery of care possible.

We absolutely can accomplish our goals better with technology, BUT we need to fund services differently and policies need to change. Right now, policymaking is centered around having a person make a choice between virtual support and human support, but this is not the dichotomy that we should be going for. The truth is that all care industries are intrusive and every care procedure (medical, clinical, etc.) is intrusive. Our challenge is to manage how we balance the intrusion with delivering the best care possible.

Technology Enabled Service Models Empower Independence

So, let’s connect this to our industry. Most would agree that an individual living in a group home with 3-7 other residents, and at least two staff around the clock (including up at night), would be a more intrusive setting than someone living on their own (or with a roommate), in an inclusive apartment where technology enables care to be delivered at the moment and place of need. There are many advantages to this type of model, as we’ve talked about before, but one important and often overlooked factor is that delivering virtual support requires you to be able to teach someone how to do something because you are not there to do it for them. On the other hand, in-person care often results in encouraging dependence because the caregiver can do the task for the person instead.

“How can we use technology to advance outcomes and improve services, just like we did for ourselves during the pandemic?”

Across the nation we’ve seen massive changes across the last three years. Now is the time to be asking, “How can we use technology to advance outcomes and improve services, just like we did for ourselves during the pandemic?” From experience, GoodLife believes that we cannot actually have a meaningful conversation about developing a strong process for continuous improvement without including a discussion about what has been made possible now, thanks to technology.

In the coming episodes, we are going to navigate these challenging processes. We use the solutions we designed at GoodLife and we want to show you how iLink Technologies has been incorporated here to advance these important principles across the last two decades.

We will also look at some case studies which will allow us to explore how we improve self-direction, staff support, quality control, privacy, unwelcome intrusions, choice and control, remote-teaching and more with advanced and carefully designed technology integrations, so stay tuned!

Embracing future models of care can be overwhelming, but innovation is often easier to access and integrate than you might think! If you’re interested in working with our specialized GoodLife U team to affordably and sustainably explore next-generation service models, please reach out to us. We’d love to connect with you.

Mike Strouse is President/CEO of GoodLife Innovations. For more than 30 years Mike has led GoodLife Innovations, Inc. and its subsidiaries. Mike’s extensive work encompasses research, development, refinement and dissemination of evidence-based, nationally-regarded, community service models that consistently produce person-centered care and high quality-of-life outcomes for those served.