Using Disease-Specific Programs to Grow Your Private Duty Agency
By Jason Lewallen
Private duty home care is the single fastest-growing service in the post-acute care industry. With the continued growth of the aging population, this trend is expected to continue for years to come. Increased demand for private duty care has sparked a shift from little or no marketing to a more aggressive sales outreach, which can be problematic for some agencies. Because increased demand brings with it increased competition, it’s going to become more difficult to grow your client base without a fresh approach.
One effective strategy is to create a disease-specific program to complement the care plan established by the hospital or physician when discharging their patients to self-care at home. This program (often referred to as disease management) offers a huge incentive for the medical professionals in your area to refer to you over your competitors. Here are the three main benefits of a disease-specific program:
It opens a door to non-intermittent care. Many Medicare home health patients need around-the-clock care. While some have able caregivers, many simply do not. You can help your medical professionals identify that need and serve those clients, keeping them healthy and safe.
It helps prevent hospital readmissions. Hospitals and physicians are taking a huge financial loss when a client with a specific illness (typically heart attack, pneumonia, and congestive heart failure) gets readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged. It’s estimated to have resulted in about $428 million in fines imposed by Medicare in 2014 alone. By helping patients maintain a healthy diet and knowing the signs of their worsening condition, your agency will help reduce those readmissions.
It minimizes their paperwork. The providers will not be required to fill out detailed orders every time you change a client’s shirt or they have trouble eating lunch. It’s good to report key things to the doctor, but they will not be required to sign an order every time you do.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “So if I decide to create a disease-specific program, then what?” The answer is quite simple: YOU SELL IT! It’s your job to mobilize your sales efforts to promote how your agency can work with medical professionals, hospitals, and other post-acute care providers to meet the needs of their patients and become a cornerstone to their continuum of care.
To help you get started, here is a three-step plan for promoting your disease- specific program:
Step 1: Identify your target audience.
Knowing who and where to market is almost as important as the sales and marketing efforts themselves. If you have not been reaching out to medical professionals (or have not been very successful reaching out to them), you need to create a list of the most active physicians in your market. Once you’ve identified your target physicians, prioritize which ones seem to be the most likely to refer for your services. Having an idea of the volume of patients they are referring and the diagnoses they specialize in can help as well.
Step 2: Educate your referral sources on the value that you provide.
After establishing your target audience, you need to educate your prospective referral sources about the benefits of your program. Many times, an in-service lunch or a quick in-person meeting allows you to start a conversation about the holistic needs of their patients. Make sure to provide an educational brochure that gives them an easy way to get in touch with you, so they are always thinking, “Reach out to [your agency] to set up an assessment.”
It’s important to keep in mind that you most likely will not be effective if you only visit each referral source once. They need to recognize you as an authority on private duty care, as well as the program you are promoting. So many companies visit them each day that it’s easy for your agency to get lost in the shuffle. Stand out from the crowd with the small and meaningful details of great customer service: recognize their birthday; find out their favorite team or maybe their favorite food. Building a strong relationship with your referral sources (combined with your expertise on disease management) will put you a few steps ahead of your nearest competitor.
Step 3: Monitor and measure your success.
If you want to grow, as well as sustain that growth, this final step is imperative. If you don’t “see what sticks” when it comes to your sales and marketing efforts, then how will you know what is working and what isn’t? Monitoring your team’s results and measuring them over time will allow you to refine your strategies and become even more effective.
This is where a customer relationship management (CRM) solution can help. If your sales team uses a CRM and reports their daily interactions, you’ll have the accountability to protect your investment. You will also be able to see when new patients are admitted to your care and be able to review the efforts that brought that referral to your doorstep.
Private Duty Home Care will only become more and more competitive. The time to put in place a strategy for sustainable growth is today, not tomorrow. By developing specialty programs that place your agency directly in the spectrum of care, you can elevate the awareness of your services in the community and become an important ally to the medical providers in your market.
About the Author: Jason Lewallen, business development manager with PlayMaker CRM, specializes in connecting health care organizations with technology solutions to boost sales and grow business. Having previously worked on the front lines of post-acute care sales, he understands the challenges facing providers and helps them maximize their growth potential.