Originally appeared on Home Health Care News on April 26, 2020.
BrightStar Care is one of the largest in-home care franchises in the country. While having a big footprint is a goal of most companies, during the COVID-19 crisis, it raises the stakes of every move that is or isn’t made.
Based in Chicago, BrightStar Care offers medical-level in-home care, non-medical home care and medical-staffing services across more than 300 locations. By leveraging that network, the company and its franchisees are able to reach about 75% of the entire U.S. population of seniors.
The breadth of BrightStar Care’s reach meant it had to act quickly and effectively when the COVID-19 virus surfaced. The franchisor was able to do so, mostly thanks to three components of its plan, CEO Shelly Sun told Home Health Care News.
First and foremost, the company began preparing for the long haul in early March.
“We started early,” Sun said. “We started working on connecting around the globe for sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) as early as March 7, so we’ve been at this for quite some time — weeks before most were truly reacting to the crisis.”
What allowed BrightStar to be flexible and aggressive in its sourcing of vital resources was the second component.
“I own 100% of my stocks,” Sun said. “We’re not PE-funded, which allows me to be able to take a long-term view of deploying capital.”
Without the pressure of meeting short-term profit goals, making a slew of large orders — most of which had to be 10,000 units or greater — was not an issue.
That led to a $2 million of PPE inventory.
Sun also had help going to the right places to build that inventory. Specifically, her involvement in the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) was extremely useful and the third key to her and BrightStar’s success in the early stages of the coronavirus.
The Young Presidents’ Organization is a global leadership community of chief executives with about 28,000 members.
“I’ve built lots of relationships because I go to Harvard every year as part of the YPO program, and have for eight years,” Sun said. “So I had friends around the globe that I was reaching out to … looking for help and telling them what [and how much] I was trying to source. Then I’d use that to kind of piece together 10,000 [units] here and 10,000 there.”
What started in early March led to success for BrightStar in early April. Specifically, the company was able to distribute masks to every caregiver in its network by making them widely available to each of its franchisees by that time.
During that waiting period, franchisees were able to procure enough PPE through local measures, Sun said. Previously established relationships with Medline — a medical supplies company — were a great advantage as well.
“I was really grateful we were already Joint Commission accredited, because it meant we already had great protocols,” Sun said. “We’re nurse led — we have a director of nursing in every location … and we had that disaster response in place.”
In the end, the inventory initiative netted BrightStar nearly 100,000 N95 masks, 20,000 face shields, nearly a million gloves, 500,000 hand sanitizers and 10,000 goggles, among other supplies.
While many in-home care agencies have experienced a dip in client usage, BrightStar is running at 99.2% of its pre-COVID-19 volume, Sun said.
Apart from its PPE inventory, BrightStar also rolled out a respirator program in March, making it a brand requirement for all of caregivers dealing with COVID-19 positive patients to use them.
The company gives its caregivers the option of whether they want to treat COVID-19 positive patients. It also gives its franchisees the ability to give incentive pay to those workers.
“We set up in our payroll and billing system the ability to add on incentive pay,” Sun said. “[Then for] those who are willing to take symptomatic patients, there is tracking for that workforce that’s specified. So as they’re needed, they can be assigned.”
It’s ultimately up to the franchisees to grant that incentive pay.
For its next steps, BrightStar is gearing up for the next several months, keeping the pedal down on resource procurement and finding ways to acquire COVID-19 and antibody testing. The company is also in conversations with tech vendors in order to expand its virtual care capabilities.
On the marketing side, the company has launched multiple paid social and digital campaigns to further its recruiting efforts. It also recently purchased a large TV ad buy, which went live on April 6.
After one week of air time, BrightStar’s website traffic was up 23%, Sun said.
“We’re not just addressing the crisis [right now], but also very significantly looking forward from it for our franchisees and for the brand,” she added.