Digital transformation through partnerships in home healthcare
October 31, 2023
VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) has a vision for how technology can improve their clients’ and care providers’ experiences, and Canadian software vendor GoldCare is helping to bring it to life. Here, the two senior leaders share their secrets for a productive, mutually beneficial customer-vendor partnership.
VHA is a not-for-profit homecare organization that provides care and support across Ontario in people’s homes, in the community and in long-term care settings. Its care providers include personal support workers, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, cleaners, social workers, dietitians and speech-language pathologists.
GoldCare creates cloud-based, integrated, health and information management software for home healthcare, children’s services and long-term care organizations. It is a member of the Constellation Software Group, one of Canada’s largest software companies.
Bringing VHA’s vision to life: VHA’s vision includes leveraging digital solutions to improve the experiences of its clients and care providers, especially given the severe health human resources challenges facing the sector.
A crucial part of VHA’s digital transformation is to deliver better client communication, access to information and new client-facing digital services, including virtual care. VHA approached GoldCare about implementing a digital solution that would meet these important client needs.
GoldCare’s relevant product offering was mature and reliable; the company was up-front about what their product could do and how it could be enhanced to meet VHA’s needs.
A solution, developed in concert with VHA’s client partners, was a client services hub based on open architecture, dubbed myVHA. The design allowed VHA to plug and play different client-facing digital services and applications.
Shared values: The portal launched in January and, within months, exceeded adoption targets. It was designed to enhance communication between healthcare providers and their clients by allowing clients to set preferences, manage scheduling, view caregiver information and much more. It has reduced the burden on VHA’s call centre, improved the caregiver experience and – most importantly – has made an enormous difference to VHA’s clients. Communication is better, scheduling is easier, and clients who use myVHA are more active participants in their own care.
GoldCare and VHA’s shared values came into play when VHA proposed that clients be involved in co-designing myVHA.
Not every vendor would be enthusiastic about giving end-users that degree of input. But GoldCare knew that client involvement is central to everything VHA does and trusted that giving these important end-users a seat at the table would improve the product.
And it did. VHA’s client partners contributed ideas and feedback starting at the design phase right through to completion. They even went on to participate in promoting the portal.
As an example, the end-users had a specific request about how their care providers’ names would be displayed. Instead of just first names, the portal can now display first name and last initial, eliminating the confusion that arose when a client had two providers with the same first name.
Another client-requested feature was the addition of a new, view-only account type for family members of VHA clients. GoldCare added this much-appreciated feature, which allowed family members and other unpaid caregivers to view schedules and keep track of the care being provided.
This feature will be complemented by a notification centre, another feature requested by VHA’s client partners, allowing them to receive alerts about any changes to their schedule.
For each feature request, GoldCare provided specifications and mocked-up designs in response to client feedback. GoldCare also made valuable recommendations and provided user experience expertise to ensure that the features were designed in a way that was useful and useable for the portal’s end-users.
What’s the secret to this mutually beneficial relationship?
On the customer side, VHA brings an appetite for innovation and a willingness to share all the details of their vision with their software partner. That allows GoldCare to make strategic and practical recommendations on how to meet VHA’s goals.
For the vendor, GoldCare has a partner in VHA willing to invest in co-developing innovative new features to meet VHA’s needs, knowing that these would also benefit GoldCare’s other customers.
Another factor in the relationship is the shared values of openness and transparency. The lines of communication are always open. Senior leaders meet weekly, and members of their respective teams are also in constant contact.
We speak plainly with one another and share information and industry insights so that we’re both aware of what’s happening in the marketplace and what other organizations are working on.
When necessary, we challenge each other. Both organizations are open to discussing disagreements and working together on a shared solution that results in a win/win for both. VHA wants the best possible product for their clients and caregivers, and they know GoldCare can help them deliver it.
The journey we’re on together is shaping and benefiting both organizations.
VHA gains operational efficiency. The new technology makes the organization more agile and lets it deliver new and improved digital experiences for clients, families, staff and clinicians.
Meanwhile, GoldCare is expanding its product offering, leading to improved product sales.
There’s a magic to this type of customer-vendor relationship, and it’s hard to pin down. But if we were to create a recipe, we’d boil it down to this:
- Seek to understand each other’s vision and goals
- Find a common strategic purpose and anchor all your decisions to that
- Be willing to take risks
- Develop a mentality that you are co-creating a solution together
- Keep the lines of communication open throughout the engagement and at all levels of the project team
- Openly share information, intelligence, plans and ideas, and be ready to respectfully disagree or challenge one another
- Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.
With these insights, we hope many other healthcare providers and software vendors can transcend the typical customer-vendor dynamic to enjoy the mutual, strategic benefits of a genuinely collaborative and visionary partnership. The clients who receive care will surely benefit.
Alistair Forsyth is VP of Digital Health & Chief Information Officer, VHA Home HealthCare. Al Hamilton is Chief Operating Officer, GoldCare.