Home Health Relationships with Retirement Communities

Marketing to a senior residence isn’t easy. In fact, with the lines continually blurred between patient choice and automatic patient placement with an agency, one of our readers had some interesting questions about the relationships between retirement communities and agencies. We are going to provide those answers.

Senior living residences are looking for providers that can offer the services their residents need to stay in their units for as long as possible. With new facilities opening all the time, the economic principle of supply and demand comes into play.

Many facilities no longer have a wait list for units. Those that do, are able to charge more per month and therefore make more money. These facilities are typically higher end, located in affluent areas. Most of the other facilities have empty units. For the facility, every empty unit is a financial loss and cash flow drain. Additionally, the industry is going through a transition in which regional chains are now being absorbed by national companies creating a large conglomerate of facilities.

The appeal of becoming a home health agency that partners with local facilities is huge because so many of their residents are no longer healthy. Most residents do indeed require some type of home health at during their stay at a senior residence. The likelihood of having 25-50% of residents on service is not unheard of, particularly in the older communities. The past 10 years has seen a shift from the senior population living independently to living in senior residences for as long as possible – sometimes until death, a regular occurrence.

If you think that your agency can become a preferred provider for a senior living residence merely by sponsoring a few lunches or bingo games, think again. You need to stand out in a sea of home health agencies who would love to get their foot in the door of such a large client pool. You need to understand how a senior living residence works and then take a hard look at your agency and your operational make up.

Is your clinical staff paid salary, hourly or per visit? This can be an important indicator of consistency. These facilities want one agency to do it all for them – and they want them to do it well. So if you have inconsistent staff, the success of such involvement with a senior living residence isn’t going to happen.

Relationships are built with consistent staff and a consistent staff at a facility is not possible for many agencies due to various reasons. Those agencies that are able to commit staff to one or two facilities are the ones that succeed. This is the biggest differentiation you can make between your agency and any other when marketing to a senior community.

Do not think that the promises you make in those early meetings with the directors will not be followed up on. If you promise a senior residence community the world you’d better deliver the world – and then some – legally. Legally operating within these facilities is going to be covered in next month’s edition.

But for now, if you want to operate in a senior community, we have some homework for you to do:
1. Review your current staff and write down which ones you think deliver the best customer service and patient care. You’ll need to come up with nurses, PTs, OTs and home health aides. These staff will be your senior residence team.
2. What is the staff pay structure – per visit, hourly or salary? You need a dedicated team. This is an investment in your agency – your company. Paying these people will provide much needed revenue and cash in the long run.
3. What types of programs and clinical excellence measures do you currently have in place that can be used by your dedicated team for the facility? Keep in mind the facilities goals of keeping their units occupied with reduced turnover.
4. Do you understand the community – its culture, its operational structure, the type of residents it has? Do you understand the senior retirement industry? If you don’t – you need to, and start now by researching and learning. If you do, then you are halfway to understanding how to establish a successful partnership.

Make sure you have the answers to these 4 questions, because next month we will begin to outline the plan to make success a reality.