Business & Marketing — How to do it ... Rehabilitation

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The last few years have seen many providers rise to take advantage of opportunities in long-term care rehabilitation. While the field has been lucrative for many, most would agree success has involved "more than just showing up," as one observer put it. This month, experts tell how providers can push themselves ahead of the pack and make the most of current conditions.

1. Taking a broad view of your marketplace is always a good first step. Then drill down so you discern what's really at stake.
"Understand the diagnoses and flow of patients leaving hospitals in your market before you write a marketing plan to build your Medicare Part A census," says Colleen Jones, senior vice president of operations for RehabCare Group. "Involve nursing, administration and rehabilitation, as well as other key department heads in your marketing team."

2. Along those lines, to excel, a provider must know the needs of its market, and fill those needs better than anyone else, says Martha Schram, president of Aegis Therapies.
"Do some market research to find out what rehab needs are going unmet or are difficult to meet in your area. Find out what the hospitals struggle with – what kind of patients they have problems placing," she advises. "Then, be their solution upstream. But don't try to come up with a solution before you do your homework."

3. Create a "niche" diagnostic specialty to create a point of differentiation.
"Opening a neurological- or orthopedic-based rehab specialty unit can help to create a unique positioning for your nursing home in your market and increase census," Schram says. "If you are considering a rehab specialty, however, make sure it is something the market is interested in — and make sure the market isn't already saturated.
Deliver measurable results and you will have specialty physicians referring exclusively to your facility, she adds.

4. Get out and meet physicians to build relationships and increase referrals.
"A key to rehab success is to have credibility and trust with referring physicians," Schram says. "It's not always easy to get in front of physicians, but you can if you have a credible topic to talk about. Explain how you can benefit one another."
SYNERTX Rehabilitation's Brian Hatch takes it even further.
"The power of personal contact and demonstrated interest by administrators cannot be overemphasized," he says. "Time and again, we've noticed that our clients who have the greatest growth in skilled admissions have administrators that make it a personal point to greet each and every physician, insurance company representative, or other potential referral source each time they come in the building and demonstrate a genuine interest in the residents they are visiting.

5. Be sure you provide training for your therapists. A well-trained, stable staff is the key to success, Schram says. And don't forget about nurses – training them to understand and work with therapists can only help outcomes.

6. Once you get them in the door, don't forget to ensure that the long-term care needs of Medicare Part B residents do not get overlooked when Medicare Part A census goes up, RehabCare's Jones adds.

7. Whether or not you find a particular niche, you can get ahead simply by doing some of the basics overlooked by many others, says SYNERTX's Hatch.
"Make sure the marketing 101 basics are covered: facility business cards for rehab director and admissions coordinators, a Web site that specifically talks about rehab and ideally has a patient quote, and
a brochure that talks about the facility and mentions short-term rehab," Hatch stresses. "This may seem like common sense, but the number of nursing homes that try to market themselves without even a simple brochure and Web site is surprising."

8. Smaller facilities should emphasize strengths that make them unique.
"Perhaps you have a full-time physical therapist who provides all of the physical therapy, versus your larger competitor that mainly uses assistants to do the treatments," Hatch says. "Emphasize to each potential admission that they will have their evaluation and their treatments done by the same therapist, and the extra quality and consistency that brings."