Legal Insights

What is the prescription for a good home care agreement?

By Lucille Scomazzon

• 22 February 2017 • 3 min read
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A good agreement should facilitate clear communication with consumers at the start of the relationship

This a question that we have focussed on in recent months when working with home care providers as they prepare for the reforms which commence next week.

Some providers have simply wanted to update their agreement to reflect the changes which commence on 27 February 2017: to reflect package portability, the rules for unspent home care amounts, exit amounts and the notice period that consumers must give if moving to another provider.

Other providers have seen it as an opportunity to take a step back and consider whether their agreement and related consumer documentation (eg handbooks/client folders) will clearly and concisely communicate their value proposition and support a smooth and efficient intake experience for the consumer.

A good agreement should facilitate (but not overshadow) clear communication with consumers at the start of the relationship. It should be a useful tool in communicating the provider’s service commitment as well as setting and managing expectations and obligations between provider and consumer.

While the agreement is an important document from a regulatory compliance and clinical governance perspective, the overwhelming feedback we have received is that many providers have invested significant resources in improving the content, look and feel of the documents they give to consumers so as to be “reform ready”. In doing so there is an expectation that the agreement will be easy for staff to use with consumers. It must not be the outlier in an otherwise smooth, user friendly and efficient intake process.

Maddocks agreement for home care packages contains all the provider, consumer and package specific information, mandatory content and signatures in a three to four page table (allowing for some variability in provider customisation). The table is supported by a compact set of terms which need only be referred to should there be a need for further explanation. Intake staff can use the first few pages as a script during the intake process. In following this approach, providers can be confident that they are communicating to the consumer all the information which the legislation requires be communicated, in the simplest way possible (the process itself also being a requirement under the legislation).

The agreement works well with the provider’s separate consumer folder which may contain the complaints handling policy, fees policy, privacy policy and service information. It allows for these documents to be updated by the provider from time-to-time rather than being inflexibly embedded in the agreement (taking up valuable space).

When considering whether you need a prescription for a new agreement, you should ask whether your agreement:

  • contains pages of legal definitions and interpretive clauses which require the reader to flip backwards and forwards to understand the meaning of words and phrases used
  • has information or numerous attachments which quickly become outdated and would be better placed in a consumer handbook or information folder so they can be amended when needed
  • is a standard form document which meets the requirements of the legislation but is not aligned with your way of delivering packages, your processes and how you deliver packages
  • is understood by your staff – can they sit down with you and walk you through the agreement without having to read verbatim large passages of text?

In an increasingly competitive market, service differentiation, communication and being easy to deal with will be increasingly important considerations in package retention and service growth. Investing in documentation and processes which meaningfully support a consumer centred focus, drive efficiency and reduce administrative burden and duplication will be essential.

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