By Chris Carruthers, Vice President of Health Services
Thanks to the quickly evolving post-acute care market, retirement communities are being forced to think differently about how to obtain referrals.
Whether or not you’re participating in a preferred provider program, your focus should be on developing relationships that lead to partnerships with all referral sources. Each referral source requires a different strategy, based on their pain points and expectations.
Discharge planners at hospitals often look for partners who can make quick decisions. This means your community needs to make a decision on an admission within 15-30 minutes of a referral from a hospital. It also means that communities need to be flexible because an admission decision may need to take place after 4 p.m. or on the weekends.
In today’s healthcare environment, communities should tell a story about readmission rates, quality of care and the niche services you may provide. Once you’ve developed your data story, align it with the needs of the hospital to demonstrate a good fit. For example, if you know the local hospital is looking for a partner that specializes in COPD, your data story should include quality, outcomes, care coordination, staffing practices, average length of stay, re-hospitalization and emergency room use, clinical core competencies and costs-per-episode related to COPD.
The information should be shared both verbally and on paper, preferably on a branded template. The information should be updated regularly and shared with discharge planners. It is also important to share this information on a regular basis with your team during a daily stand-up meeting.
Developing relationships with physicians is a much longer process, as you need to convince them to change their referral patterns. Physicians refer to communities they trust so they can feel confident that their patients will receive high quality care. In order to build trust, a relationship must be formed, which means that it is important to understand their needs and expectations, and then match that with a resolution. A partnership benefits both parties, so it is important to listen to their needs.
Since physicians want to make sure their patients have the best outcomes, they want to know about clinical protocols, readmission rates, and infection rates. They also appreciate access to electronic medical records. The data story for physicians should include information specific to their specialty and align with any niche program at your community.
Do you currently have a full-time outreach staff member whose responsibility is to establish and nurture relationships? Outreach staff members are the eyes and ears of what is going on in hospitals. A well-trained and well-versed outreach specialist will be able to build relationships with hospital discharge personnel and ask the tough questions, including why they are not referring to your community, where their SNF discharges are going now, and why. They can also learn of a hospital’s future plans for improving patient outcomes and cost effectiveness, so you can align your community’s offerings with those plans.
Additionally, they can address any rumors or misconceptions about your community that may have served as a barrier to consideration. Remember, it is important to spend time nurturing physician relationships, and similar strategies will be required of your outreach effort.
Tools for successful relationship building include:
- Developing an outreach plan and associated tactical plan to focus on both hospital and physician referral strategies
- Using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool to track activity
- Measuring performance by setting goals for appointments, referrals and admissions
- Providing quality collateral as leave-behind reminders of your community’s unique qualifications
- Sharing your story. Get the word out about your positive patient outcomes and the benefits of the acute care and post-acute care relationship
So what makes a hospital or physician choose your community as a partner? They want you to prove that the best quality of care is provided, that readmission rates are low, and that you invest in specially trained staff and physical plant amenities. To be successful, expectations must be met, not only in the quality of care, but also in how the lifestyle will enhance the lives of residents who move to your community for a short-term stay or for several years.
If you would like to learn more about how Love & Company can help your community generate more hospital and physician referrals, please contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 or Rick Hunsicker at 214-906-3801.