Thinking like a hospital

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

The official title of a LeadingAge Peak conference session Tuesday was “Using War Games to Cope in Uncertain Times.”

The subtitle could have been a play on the Steve Harvey book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” This was “Act Like a Long-Term Care Organization, Think Like a Hospital.”

In other words, it is up to you to see your value to other healthcare entities. While you may not have control over whether you are swept up in a merger, you do have control over who knows your worth and what you are doing.  You have to be as strategic as the hospitals around you.

Participants in the LeadingAge session examined scenarios of markets, such as a two-county area with two community hospitals, two CCRC campuses and 5 skilled nursing facilities.  Sixty-five percent of those over 65 went to a local hospital while the remainder travel about 35 miles to a larger tertiary care facility. The two-county area has primary physicians in three small groups. Questions include how will the local and regional hospitals work with the physicians? What would you do as a CEO of one of the CCRCs? And how would you work with the tertiary hospital?

This may not reflect your community, but it doesn't matter. The point of the scenario is partially about the importance of getting the right statistics, pointed out Daniel A. Lindh, the president of Presbyterian Homes & Services in Minnesota. By having facts — cough, readmission rate, cough — you are able to start having the conversation.

“Get the facts and the mystery goes away,” he says.

In Huntington, WV, Woodlands Retirement Community Director of Human Resources Charles Stephens noted how beloved his CCRC is among community members, but that the staff knows changes are ahead due to increasing competition in the region.

“For 15 years we've been the best-kept secret in the Tri-state,” he said. “How do we partner with a hospital to provide respite care? How do we create new revenue streams?”

Step 1 was looking into increasing the number of skilled nursing beds. But additionally, he's interested in how partnerships can benefit the CCRC and residents, and how Woodlands can be a leader.

It reflected what keynote speaker Peter Sheahan, author of Flip, said in an offhand comment. Participants at LeadingAge shouldn't wait for a seat at the table — they have to create the table.

That's basically been the track of Connie S. March, the president and chief executive officer of Presence Life Connections in Illinois. (She's also a former geriatric nurse practitioner.) Since a 1997 merger, the system has grown massively, and now has around 20,000 employees, and close to a dozen skilled nursing facilities.

“Be proactive and don't assume the hospitals know your data,” March said. “They know rates in aggregate. You have to tell your story. “

Like March, you cannot wait for the popular kids to ask you to join the party. Whether you are in a rural environment or rapidly expanding urban area, it's up to you to find the awesome house with the pool, to bring the snacks, and to believe in yourself.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.