In a skilled nursing landscape dominated by a shortage of workers on every level, a Newton, Mass.-based staffing company is trying to make adding temporary workers as easy as ride-hailing.
ConnectRN was founded in 2014 by current CEO Michael Wood, Idriz Limaj, and Agron Ademi. The company uses mobile software to allow registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nursing assistants, and other professionals to use their phones to pick up shifts at different facilities.
The company went through its first funding round in 2016, raising $100,000. It has since done three more funding rounds at $500,000, $2.5 million, and more than $8 million, Limaj told SNN. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing dated June 5, ConnectRN has raised $11.53 million in funding.
Limaj, who currently serves as the company’s chief strategy officer, previously worked as a certified nursing assistant, an LPN, and an RN, and had more than one job at a time over the course of those positions.
“As a per-diem in so many places, I would get bombarded with calls [to come in and work], including at 4 a.m.,” he told Skilled Nursing News. “When I became a manager, I resorted to the same tactics. I hated it, but at least at the time I didn’t know of any other solutions.”
ConnectRN aims to provide a solution other than early morning phone calls by making it easy for nurses to find shifts they want to work — and for facilities to select nurses based on position and experience. Through the app, operators put out calls for per diem nurses, who then decide whether or not they want to accept. The app can also be used within a single organization to facilitate communication between staffers and management, such as a small chain that shifts employees among buildings depending on need.
The company is also counting on the fact that it provides a discounted rate for its supplemental staffing compared with other agencies, Limaj said. According to him, a traditional agency would charge about $55 or $60 an hour to provide the services of a nurse who makes $30 per hour; ConnectRN would charge about $38 or $39.
In another similarity with ride-sharing services, the software lets employees rate the nurses using three to five questions that are weighted; the number of questions can vary depending on the answers, Limaj said. ConnectRN plans to roll out a feature for nurses to rate facilities sometime in the next three months, he added.
In a presentation at the Post Acute 360 conference in National Harbor, Md. earlier this summer, Limaj spotlighted the partnership between ConnectRN and the Baltimore-based health care organization LifeBridge Health, which used ConnectRN’s technology to communicate with and schedule per diem nurses for its Levindale geriatric care facility.
Levindale needed nurses, but struggled with burnout, insufficient integration with staffing and technology, and limited communication between nurses and employers, according to that presentation. Over a year-long period partnering with ConnectRN, the census at Levindale ended up increasing by 10%, while labor expenses stayed flat, according to the presentation.
The company is licensed as an agency in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, with licenses pending in New York and New Jersey. It aims to eventually expand to all 50 states, Lamaj said.
Though the nurses and nursing assistants who use ConnectRN are per-diem workers, they are W-2 employees of ConnectRN who must pass background checks, Limaj said. The company currently covers more than 100 nursing homes with a network of around 10,000 available workers.
In its contracts with nursing homes, ConnectRN negotiates rates in much the same way a traditional staffing agency would, though Limaj emphasized that ConnectRN is cheaper. The contracts commit the facilities to paying ConnectRN for all the hours that its per diem staff work, but there are no minimum requirements for such hours.
“They use us on an as-needed basis,” Limaj said. “They don’t have to use us any more than they need to.”
Written by Maggie Flynn
An earlier version of this story misspelled Idriz Limaj’s last name. SNN regrets the error.