Home Health Relationships with Retirement Communities

This is the second part of a series featuring home health agency relationships with senior retirement communities.  To read part one, please review the August 2014 edition of Home Health Today available on our blog, tortolanoandco.com/blog. 

In August we discussed the importance of forming a relationship with a retirement community as the basis for creating a strong referral source. In Part II we are going to discuss how to successfully develop that relationship with the proper staff and operations.

Your agency can have the most amazing clinical programs, technology and be the most cutting edge in the area.  However, if your agency experiences frequent staff turnover, poor staff moral and staff who are only interested in collecting a paycheck and going home, a relationship with a senior retirement community is not going to happen.

Successful agencies are able to develop an agency within an agency. An agency within an agency means you have two distinct operating models.  You have a community based, traditional home health model with staff who visit individual homes and make Florence Nightingale proud.  But you also have the modern home health agency model with a select team dedicated to retirement communities.  This team’s only job is to service the patients that live in specific facilities.

The modern home health agency has a team of nurses, therapists and home health aides ready to recognize additional patient needs while providing patient care.  There is a very clear line that must not be crossed in this environment, so as to not violate anti-kickback laws and this team is well aware of this line.  This elite group of staff that you’ve invested in, does not just provide home health services.  They are your agency’s ambassadors and marketers.

Your elite, retirement community-dedicated group must build a relationship with the community as well as its residents to make you the sought after provider for these types of communities.  This is the hardest part of the retirement community/home health partnership for most agencies to grasp and the reason many won’t succeed at becoming a facilities preferred provider.    The development of these relationships requires an investment of time, effort and money.  If your agency is not able to do this, you will not succeed in this venue, no matter how great your clinical outcomes are.

Now that you have an idea of the type of staff you need, does the list of staff that you created last month harmonize with the retirement community model?  If it does, great then let’s move on.  If not, then it might be good to start recruiting if you want to be successful – and I know you do or you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter.

Likely, you already have some good clinical programs in place that can be customized for each retirement community you’re seeking to become a partner with.  Pick one community that you researched within the last month and start to tailor those programs you would like to run to that facility.  Make them the facility’s programs, not just ‘ABC Home Health’s Fall Prevention Program’.

With your operating model in place and your staff trained to provide care and build relationships, you can now go to the facility and show off your agency in the best light.  Develop a marketing presentation that covers all bases and potential questions.  The last thing you want to do is look like a dear in headlights in front of the facility’s executive director and management team.

If you had a previous relationship and saw patients at the facility, understand why you stopped seeing patients and be prepared to address that prior issue.  Demonstrate how your new model functions and how it differs from what it was – if you’ve followed this plan, it is.  Be sure you can clearly explain how you are different from the local VNA or the national company whose marketers act like car salesmen trying to meet an end of the month quota.

Remember, even though this is a sales call, you are still dealing with people. Sometimes marketing staff can forget that the human touch and a little compassion can be the biggest persuasion factors. But it must be genuine and not fake or forced.  The management team has been approached by many agencies, so they are quite well aware of being able to distinguish an agency that has its ducks in a row and an agency who is simply interested in picking up patients for a quick revenue grab.

Set expectations that are reasonable and that your agency can reach.  If you reach those expectations you will be a hero.  Exceed those expectations and you will be growing your relationship with the community by leaps and bounds.  Don’t reach or meet those expectations, you’ll see other agency staff visiting patients in the facility and your referral counts drop.

Communication between a community and a home health agency is huge.  Make sure you understand the community’s desires and wishes – not just your own.  If the community has a specific form or log that is filled out regarding patient conditions and status, make sure it is filled out every time.  Go a step further.  Fill out the form or log and then speak to the facility’s patient care manager.  Make sure your staff knows that while they are there to take care of the patient, they must also manage the relationship your agency has with the retirement community.

You get one chance – you screw it up and you are out.  If you promise your agency will do something for the community within allowable guidelines and laws (be sure you don’t violate any laws – you don’t want to be ‘that’ agency) make sure your promise and offer happens.  If you are going to participate in bingo games, provide in-services to staff, or provide resident and family activities – don’t pull the plug or just brush them off.  Be proactive and schedule a few months out and stick to that schedule.  Keep your word – this is what makes your partnership grow.

Do you see the recurring themes:  relationship building, trust, commitment and integrity?  It won’t happen overnight, but if you have a good plan, you actually understand the facility, set realistic expectations, and work towards common goals, you will succeed. Focus on just your own agenda and expect to be shown the door.  Let us know if you have questions and let us know how well you do implementing your version of the program. We want you to do well, succeed, and make the national companies retreat to their corporate offices!