Expertise Homecare launched on 1st September and is the idea of Natalie Richards and Harriet Smith. Based in Kent, Natalie and Harriet have worked in homecare start-ups, having seen the process from the inside. Taking their experience they felt there was a need to tackle inefficiencies in homecare delivery, streamline processes, safeguard residents and offer a quality service to the private pay and continuing healthcare market. As a result they’ve spent a year working on and developing their model.
Natalie explained, ‘We have extensive experience from working in four homecare start-ups. We have seen the lack of quality in the industry first-hand and want to change this by raising standards. The sector is undeveloped and inherent issues aren’t being addressed. We know there are efficiencies that can be made and as we are passionate about providing high-quality care and support, we have developed ways to make them.’
Expertise Homecare is offering franchisees a similar package to other franchise companies but with a number of key unique points. A franchise is £34,000 plus VAT with an ongoing monthly management fee of 6 per cent. Franchisees are rewarded up to 1 per cent back for performance through customer service and financial turnover.
Beyond that they have actively sought out solutions to common home care problems and spoken to experts within other parts of the process to devise ways of changing procedures. For example, they’ve developed a bespoke software package based on existing payroll and rostering services. It enables staff to access all necessary care details via a smartphone. The system will contain each individual’s roster and interactive care plans, risk assessments and MARs, as well as personal development information.
As each member of staff carries out each visit, the software provides real-time updates to the office, giving management a clear idea of how visits are progressing, what has happened, any issues, errors or potential concerns. Family members can also be automatically updated on aspects of the visit.
Natalie and Harriet have ambitious plans for the software and see it as their way of integrating services around the individual. They have considered offering log-ins to GPs to reduce any lengthy waits or confusion between care workers, district nurses and GPs; any changes to medication can be seen and accessed on the smartphone. When asked about any data protection issues, Natalie said, ‘The software provider is registered as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioners Office and hold personal data in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. They are also certified against the strict ISO27001 standard, which reassures clients that we take the security of data very seriously. Staff only have access to the information they need for their visits. Phones and the mobile website are password protected and can be locked from the main office to ensure data protection protocols are always maintained. Phones will only be able to call certain numbers such as the office and emergency services.’
They hope the technology/smartphone process will help to raise efficiencies in the sector but Natalie and Harriet have also spoken with many other professionals in the sector to try to streamline homecare. Natalie continued, ‘In developing the software and our package we’ve turned over everything. We’ve looked at how to solve common problems in the system, inefficiencies that affect our sector, but also issues that have something to do with others in the sector such as GPs or specialists. Care providers often end up at the centre of coordinating care at home, booking appointments from district nurses, GPs and OTs. We understand the difficulties of coordinating this effectively and believe that access to our system will be the first step towards multiagency working to ensure quality homecare. It would provide the perfect platform for information sharing and communication that is quick, efficient and helps to streamline services.’
They hope that these efficiencies will enable them to offer quality care and raise industry standards. Natalie feels that valuing staff, paying them a living wage and supporting them will reduce staffing issues. She feels passionately that the use of unregulated staffing agencies to bridge sickness or absence of staff impacts on the quality of the service and the trust she hopes people will have in the brand they are building.
To ensure that high standards are being upheld throughout the network and customers and their families have trust in the service, Expertise Homecare has signed up to Reevoo, the independent reviewing company. Natalie explained, ‘Each franchisee will purchase a Reevoo account which will be attached to their section of our website. Once a week they will send the details of all consenting customers and relatives to Reevoo who will send them an email inviting them to rate the service. They can complete this immediately or at a later date but they have the link and ability to do so. They are able to say what they want and negative reviews cannot be removed, Reevoo has complete control over the reviewing process. This feedback then creates a star rating which will appear on Google searches. This transparency will provide people with trust in our service and showcase the excellent work our network will be doing.’
Natalie is confident that any poor reviews will be addressed by franchisees. However, if there are any ongoing problems then, as franchisors, they are able to step in to ensure that the high standards of the brand are maintained. Franchisees will be expected to attain a specified level of customer satisfaction and will be provided with rebates on franchisee fees for achieving a certain level. They are building an ‘ethical’ brand and have very high standards that they expect franchisees to embrace and meet. Natalie and Harriet are able to step in to help deal with any issues and support their franchisees, flag any concerns and provide guidance. In extreme cases they are able to expel poor performing franchises from the franchise. Natalie said, ‘We want a level of service that is consistent across the brand and our franchisees will know this from the start and what is expected of them to ensure the highest level of quality.’
Natalie and Harriet have ambitious plans for the brand and before launch have already had interest in two territories, of which one is now reserved and going through contracts.
Over to the experts…
Expertise Homecare is building a brand on trust, transparency, quality and support. With innovative technology, processes and systems to streamline the process and ensure quality care. Is the offering new? Is there space for a new franchise in the market? Will it help to integrate services around the individual? Will the reviewing process help to increase transparency and quality? What do the experts think?
Prove your model works before considering franchising
Jane Orr-Campbell, Independent Social Care Consultant
Anything which helps providers of support in people’s own homes to deliver better services is to be applauded.
However, Expertise Homecare are making some huge claims about the benefits of their system which on the face of it does not differ from a variety of others already in use in the market. It is not the system which influences the quality of services; it is the way in which it is used. Many providers buy superb technological systems but then they use very little of the functionality effectively. Systems only do what people tell them. The offering from Expertise Homecare seems light on training and staff management support, without this, the system is just a system.
There also seems to be some confusion over Data Protection. It is not enough for the franchisors’ software company to be registered with the ICO, each franchisee will also require such registration and a data controller as they are handling personal data.
Expertise Homecare is offering quality assurance activities through an external organisation but there appears to be no proposal to support franchisees to achieve the highest standard in the new Care Quality Commission (CQC) ratings which are coming into force.
Up to five people per week, keen to start a homecare business, contact me and I direct them to the route which best suits their background and experience, including established franchisors. It is, quite rightly, not easy to get registered with the CQC now and I would be concerned about referring someone, starting out, to a franchise which has no track-record of actual operations.
For the sake of the brand, my advice to Expertise Homecare would be, ‘Develop your model and prove it achieves what you want it to before putting it in the hands of those new to running a homecare business.’
Has picked up on the key homecare themes
Colin Angel, Policy Director, United Kingdom Homecare Association
Expertise Homecare has picked up on key themes that all homecare providers face: delivering quality services, openness and transparency with their customers and good use of technology.
Effective use of IT systems for rostering and payroll have become essential for providers, and online records and care plans delivered through smartphones are an attractive proposition for quality monitoring. Prospective franchisees will want assurance that the bespoke system has been adequately tested and that there are robust back-up procedures available, as technology doesn’t always work, and staff working remotely often lose connection to the mobile network.
The benefits of using ‘electronic call monitoring’ to track care workers’ visit times has been somewhat tarnished by councils imposing such systems to develop per-minute billing. However, the ability to check on the safety of clients and care workers, and reassurance for families, are extremely positive.
Subscription to independent third-party review sites is not unique, but is still relatively underused in our sector. Franchisees will be making a commitment to transparency and customer feedback that will be highly beneficial if used as a learning opportunity that leads to continuous improvement. Knowing how to respond positively to feedback is essential. Franchisees should also fully enhance their free provider profiles on the NHS Choices website, as this site will become the aggregator of quality measures.
A commitment to pay staff a living wage is extremely positive, reducing turnover and recruitment costs. Franchisees should be aware that this will price them out of many local authority contracts. Their target audience are self-funders, who carry a higher overhead in business development. Franchisees will need to price accordingly and be sure their local market can sustain the prices needed in sufficient volume.
Selection process should be thorough
Trevor Brocklebank, Chief Executive, Home Instead
With our ageing population and demand for privately-purchased care increasing significantly year-on-year, there is a growing opportunity across the sector for strong companies to make a real difference and build a successful business at the same time.
What’s more, buying a franchise can be a fantastic method of purchasing a business. However, over the last five years a significant number of care providers have tried to expand through franchising and many have failed. As a result, the individuals who purchased the franchise may have lost their life savings. It is, therefore, critical that the selection process used to select a franchise is thorough and considered.
Not knowing the specifics about Expertise Healthcare I thought it useful to highlight key selection criteria for potential franchisees when considering any franchise opportunity. The British Franchise Association has selection criteria that assess if the business is viable, franchisable and ethical. It’s important to speak to as many existing franchisees as possible to find out what it is really like. People should understand the level of risk they are happy with. If people need to be conservative with their investment, stick to a proven business where they can validate cash flow requirements, profitability and the opportunity. Ensure the management team have franchising as well as care experience, supporting a franchise network is very different to running regional offices. Make sure franchisors understand what is involved. Above all else look for cultural fit as franchisees and franchisors will hopefully have a very close relationship for a long time. Make sure everyone gets on personally and have aligned values and objectives. Finally, regardless of how compelling it seems don’t buy from the first franchisor you meet, find the best fit.