September is here and staffing levels are pretty much back to normal along with normal agency and business operations. With normalcy returning to most agencies, it’s time to plan for marketing, budgets and growth.
The agency of yesterday isn’t going to survive if it isn’t also the agency of the future. Planning for growth through marketing and budgeting is going to help propel your agency forward. As regulatory burdens continue to harass and strangle small agencies, those with strong relationships with referral sources will be able to thrive. Agencies with these stronger relationships tend to also have higher patient volume.
It’s a sad industry comparison, but today, home health is like a retail discounter – volume means profits. Agencies who continue to struggle to maintain at least 50 Medicare patients on census per month are going to find survival difficult.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Understanding how to attract quality referrals that help boost profits and provide quality service is something that must be put into place now. Your marketing campaign must focus on bringing patients into the agency that require services, but do not require so many services that you end up losing money. Having a solid average overhead amount and being able to use past and current data to establish a budget will launch you forward.
Reliable data is what you need to make the informed decisions necessary to craft your marketing plan and overall operating budget. If you aren’t using a tracking dashboard of monthly key statistics from year to year, then you should get on this project now. The data that is presented in a dashboard includes visit data, episodic data, admissions, recerts, referrals and even critical financial data such as overhead rates, direct expense rates and cash flow.
Knowing monthly cash flow trends from year to year is important as it will help you plan for anticipated needs when stronger periods can help supplement slower periods. Of course, if you have a good and thoughtful marketing campaign in place, you should be able to bring in enough patients to have strong cash flow to make payroll, pay payroll taxes and cover operating expenses. Agencies with heavy patient volume don’t find these tasks daunting, as they already have systems in place.
Larger agencies have used data and trending reports to help build systems for budgeting, marketing and daily operations. Rather than relying on a specific person, larger agencies rely on a specific procedure and process. Taking the time to identify tasks dependent on people rather than process, will be enable you to prepare for the move from the minor leagues to the majors. By focusing on process rather than a specific person, you move from being held hostage by staff to being able to scale your agency operations to coincide with its volume.
Bringing together all of your operations, budgets and marketing goals will allow you to plan and prepare for what CMS has in store for 2015. Having a deep understanding of agency protocol and finances, and how to plan growth with a well-developed marketing plan will ensure that you reach volume levels to make others envious. But you must act now – don’t wait. The next couple of months are going to be critical to facing the uphill battle in 2015. What worked in the past may not work so well in the future and the future is yours when you prepare.