How to Tell (and Sell) Your Rehospitalization Story

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By Pam Selker Rak and Gretchen Weaver, PointRight Marketing

When operators and caregivers work so hard to address and excel at quality care initiatives, sometimes they forget to do what may seem like a “no-brainer” — tell others about their successes!

Reducing rehospitalization is a great example of a clinical initiative that will pay big dividends if they're done well, and presented to referrers, physicians and in local public relations in a strategic, consistent way. But to do this right takes more than putting your rehospitalization rate in the hands of the person assigned marketing responsibilities. It takes marketing strategy, backed by meaningful data.

Here are five tips for getting turning your quality outcomes into referrals and community leads:

1.     Research. This research includes quality ratings of all referring hospitals. You must know where the hospital excels and where they do not. Specifically, you're looking for how you can help them by aligning your strengths with their weaknesses, while ensuring a good patient transfer experience to your SNF. You'll also want to research your community for other census-building details. Where do families go for information on SNFs? How do they make decisions? Local resources like senior centers, places of worship, outpatient therapy centers play an important role, but so do online resources. Know what people are searching for and how your quality reputation impacts their decisions.  When someone doesn't choose you, follow up and ask why. That phone call might be your key to future success.

2.     Position. Almost every hospital has different SNF providers available to them. What makes you different? Are you the best at cardiac care? Are you tops in rehabilitation? Is there a strong tie to a major referring hospital that can be leveraged to increase the right referrals that match your strengths? Know your position so you can determine how to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and be certain your data supports these claims.

3.     Message. What message are you sending? Does your message sound just like your competitors? If it does, will it matter to referrals whether they send the next patient to your community or theirs? Nope! Discharge planners, physicians and the community should easily identify what makes you different through your message. Seek guidance on developing these messages, as they become a valuable asset that can mitigate a census decline.  In our current healthcare environment, an effective message includes data; demonstrate your measurable success.

4.     Deliver. Here is where the rubber meets the road! When you get those referrals that you worked so hard for, do you handle them with the care they deserve? Do the residents experience what you promised? Is the quality of care perceived matching real experience?  The best way to know this by asking.  “How are we doing?” “Is this what you thought and hoped for?” “How can we improve?” “Would you refer us to a friend?” Develop a transition of care plan that establishes a two-way dialogue with the hospital or referral source, including a process-driven way to transfer all necessary information from the hospital to your nursing staff. Also, if you successfully reduced your readmission rate by 15%, they need to know it! And when your numbers aren't where they should be, prepare your staff to initiate communication with your referrers to show them what happened and how you're addressing the issue. They know when they get a returned resident. Be prepared and willing to explain the causes and corrections.

5.     Consistent and continual outreach. Your marketing efforts aren't a one-time initiative. To get the message across and to build your “brand awareness” for your communities that is easily remembered and forms a reputation, marketing needs to become an ongoing component of your business. Without marketing, census will falter despite your hard work and good intentions. Check yourself with surveys and channels for suggestions and comments. Keep your hospitals, physicians, residents, and their families informed and educated on just how you play a significant, quality role in the healthcare continuum and in your local community.

Rehospitalizations have made many nursing homes stand up and take notice of the threats of competing for census. Addressing quality is first and foremost, but as you get your rates and processes under control, remember more remains to be done. People need to know how great you are and what you're great at doing. When your message matches your methods – backed up by meaningful data – people will value your contribution and reward your hard work.

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