How Can Matching Service Registries Recruit New Online Users?
Editor’s note: This article is the second in a three-part series highlighting online matching service registries around the country.
In California, most people enrolled in the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program hire, train, and manage their own home care workers —an arrangement known as “consumer direction.” According to PHI’s analysis of U.S. Census data, older adults and people with disabilities in California employ over 100,000 consumer-directed workers (called “personal attendants,” or “PAs,” in the state). For assistance, some consumers who need help finding PAs turn to consumer-led nonprofit organizations called Centers for Independent Living (CILs). However, maintaining an offline registry of workers and connecting them with consumers in person or over the phone can be challenging for CIL staff.
To address this challenge, the Marin Center for Independent Living (MCIL), which is located just north of San Francisco, developed an online platform called QuickMatch. QuickMatch is designed to improve access to consumer-directed services by expanding the technological capacity of CILs to offer these services. Using the QuickMatch platform, participating CILs can link consumers to a searchable database of available workers, and PAs to a similar database of job listings.
Currently, five CILs in California—which collectively serve approximately 10,000 consumers of long-term services and supports each year—subscribe to the QuickMatch platform to host their online registries. I spoke with Eli Gelardin, the Executive Director at MCIL and co-founder (along with Jon Morato) of QuickMatch, to learn more about the registry’s history and the lessons learned in growing a popular online matching service registry platform.
How did QuickMatch get started?
For years, MCIL has linked consumers to PA services in person and over the phone. The problem is that if someone is stuck in bed or transitioning out of a hospital, they need PA support right away—even if it’s outside our business hours. In 2008, to address this concern, we launched QuickMatch as an online version of our in-person matching services and received an overwhelming response. In the first year, we doubled the number of consumers we historically served within our PA matching program. The next year, other CILs began to inquire about launching their own versions of QuickMatch. We discovered this was not only a great web application for our organization, but one that other organizations could use as well.
What were the main barriers that you faced in getting your registry off the ground?
Most QuickMatch subscribers (MCIL included) serve communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has become an exceedingly expensive place to live. To ensure QuickMatch offers a valuable resource to consumers, the organizations that use QuickMatch are constantly challenged to recruit enough workers to the platform who can fulfill this low-paying work in areas with a high cost of living.
What makes QuickMatch unique and effective?
To recruit and retain workers to use the registry, QuickMatch facilitates healthy, productive employment relationships in a way that agencies and other job boards do not. Beyond basic information about employment, workers and consumers can share their personalities and preferences through their profiles.
How can CILs promote successful, enduring connections on QuickMatch?
The most successful QuickMatch partners also invest in proactively marketing and maintaining the registry, in order to recruit and retain more users over time. More broadly, CILs play an important role in facilitating and supporting positive relationships between PAs and consumers. At MCIL, we promote choice, personal privacy, and recognition of individuality for all the consumers we serve. We also help ensure workers receive a living wage, that their duties and schedules are outlined in written agreements, and that they have opportunities for additional training and professional development. These organizational strategies help ensure that the consumers and caregivers who meet through QuickMatch have the resources to live high-quality lives.
How do you ensure workers receive a living wage?
MCIL ensures caregivers earn a living wage empowering the consumer to be the employer of record and empowering caregivers to set their own wages. We do not take any fees or percentages of the hourly rate of the worker because our program is funded and sustained through grants.
What has been the impact of your matching service registry?
Across the five CILs that use QuickMatch, we have seen consumers maintain their independent living goals and sustain a high quality of life through close, meaningful partnerships with the PAs they find through QuickMatch. Recently, one of our consumers who contracted polio as a child passed away at the age of 86. In her obituary, the consumer and her family expressed their appreciation for the tremendous work of her PA and the deep bond they had developed.
What have you learned through launching QuickMatch?
One of the most significant lessons we have learned through launching QuickMatch is how critical it is for CILs to understand the local environment, assess the needs of their community members with regards to PA services, and develop a clear strategy to implement QuickMatch. This means ensuring that PA services and programs are appropriately funded before launching a new matching service registry. Beyond investing in personnel to run the registry, it is critical that each organization allocate resources toward outreach and marketing. These strategies help ensure success for the organizations that operate QuickMatch registries.
Do you have ideas for the future of QuickMatch, based on your experience so far?
We are pleased with the partnerships that we have with CILs across California and are committed to supporting them in achieving their programmatic and service goals through QuickMatch. To date, 500 consumers and 300 PAs use QuickMatch across the state of California. We are happy to support new partnerships and take a very personalized approach to cultivating new relationships built on trust and a deep understanding of the needs of QuickMatch partners. In the future, we hope to grow the number of organizations that use QuickMatch.
What is one hope you have for the future of consumer direction?
In our opinion, the greatest opportunity to support the expansion of consumer direction is to invest in the capacity of organizations that facilitate consumer-directed services, in partnership with public agencies and the health care sector. While launching QuickMatch has been a valuable step towards achieving this goal, even more important is developing and cultivating organizational and political leadership to address the systemic barriers that are impacting our caregiver workforce. As an organization, we are committed to investing in this system change and encourage other organizations to do the same. Everyone does better when everyone does better.
For an online map of matching service registries around the country, click here.
This blog series was funded with support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (Grant No. H133B130034/90RT5026) through the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California, San Francisco.