Guest Columns

Preparing your back yard

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Tara Roberts
Tara Roberts

While many SNF operators continue to sell, and larger SNF providers work to diversify their portfolios to survive the “Great Perhaps,” SNF providers are also scrambling to prepare to be “bought” by ACOs, aligned with potential bundling partners, selected as a preferred provider, and ultimately “sold” to the best, not highest, bidder.

I'm not sure about you, but there are a few things I would only ever want to do once or dread doing more than once. That's planning a wedding (it may be every girl's dream, but you only want to do that once) and selling or buying a home. Preparing to be “bought,” aligned or selected in the PAC healthcare continuum is really not too different than trying to sell your house. 

The Preparation Stage
May I suggest you start in the “backyard”? It's not really ever considered the most important part of the home, but when we bought our last home, the backyard sealed the deal for us. We suddenly forgot about the little things that would need to be fixed in the house because the backyard was spectacular. Do I really mean to start in the SNF's physical backyard? No. What I mean is you can start in the house and move to the front yard (or curb appeal). But if your backyard (the secret garden, the driving force behind or below the surface of the house) is not taken care of, it may undo all the great work done in the house and on the curb. Make sure your philosophies and culture are bought into — that they weave in and out of everything you see and do. It's about what truly lies beneath the surface of your employee's smiles and to make sure there are not dark forces lurking in the “backyard.”

The Get Your Act Together Stage
Once you have the “backyard” worked out, you will need to decide and prioritize what should be “fixed” in the house. This of course is a metaphor for your everyday business: Maybe things are good but they aren't GREAT yet. This is your chance to step back and take an honest look at yourself. How should you do that? It's QAPI — Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement. All systems, clinical and non-clinical, will benefit from the processes outlined in QAPI. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding: Know your customer satisfaction levels; know your Quality Measure strengths and weaknesses; know your 5-Star Rating; know your market niche and expertise; know how you compare in your local and state market; and know your clinical and rehab outcomes. Prioritize your actions based on what will impact your facility the quickest and, most importantly, improve your stakeholder satisfaction. Establish a plan, act on the plan and adhere to timelines and reviews of progress. VALIDATE.

The Open House Stage
Once you have the “backyard” and the house ready, it's time to prepare for those first impressions and open the doors to the “buyers.” The “front yard” or your curb appeal is all about setting expectations. It should tell the “buyer” you are interested in details and the small stuff matters. Note that the “front yard” is also your front line out in the community. Be smart about who is representing you in the community and who is the face of your facility.  And not to beat the “backyard” importance to death, but if you haven't taken care of business there, it will show its ugly face everywhere OR negate all the effectiveness you could have with your representation in the community. At “open house” time you are confident in who you are; what you mean to the community; how effective you are in caring for your residents; how committed you are to being the best; what you are great at; that you know your weaknesses and have a system to constantly improve upon them; and finally, that you challenge anyone to find an issue in “YOUR BACKYARD!”

The Closing Day Stage
I distinctly remember praying for the closing day on our new home and counting the days. It's no different in pursuit of a SNF being “bought,” aligned, selected and SOLD. There will be bumps in the road, new challenges and likely moments of wondering why exploring the “Great Perhaps” is worth it. But stick with it. Pay attention to the “backyard” and you will soon see that sold sign!

Tara Roberts is the corporate director of rehabilitation and wound care services at Nexion Health Management, Inc.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.