As the summer quickly approaches, many agencies experience a drop in patient census and an increase in staff vacation requests. Agencies should try to have the final summer time-off schedules in place with coverage plans by Mid-June.
The coming weeks should prompt your agency to evaluate its performance during the June to September period. Using last year’s financial data, a specific budget should be developed so your agency doesn’t find itself short of cash and full of surprises. Statistical data such as the number of visits performed by discipline and staffing schedules will also help.
Combining your financial data and statistical data will help you determine how to best allocate resources over the next three to four months. Planning for a cash crunch now will mean fewer problems in the coming months, allowing you to enjoy the summer and plan for the fall.
The fall is when agencies tend to see a resurgence in patient census levels and an increase in need. Using the summer months to develop, test, and work out the kinks for new disease management programs provides an opportunity for you to market, refine, and then put your hard work on display.
Once you have the programs in place and have done trials during your lower census months, you can pinpoint weaknesses and areas that need improvement to promote better patient care. This data, which you should be collecting in order to benchmark yourself, should be used to market your new programs to referral sources.
Important question you need to remember when developing programs are these:
“What makes our agency unique?”
“Why do referral sources refer to us?”
“Do we understand our patient population and their needs?”
“What can we do to improve our agency?”
Another question you need to ask yourself is this: “What are all of our competitors (other agencies) doing?” Now you need to be innovative and do the opposite. If you’re going to copy your competition, and just roll out some new pens with your agency name, then you’re not different. You fall back into the group of providers who don’t stand out.
Creating your niche and then making sure that referral sources know about your unique approach to care isn’t difficult. But communicating your unique approach can be. In order to provide a high level of quality care, your programs are likely to be complex, but your ability to explain the programs to referral sources and patients shouldn’t be.
Innovation isn’t necessarily about recreating the wheel – it is about being able to do it better and more efficiently. So if you are going to copy every other agency’s approaches, tactics, and programs verbatim, you aren’t unique. Remember this simple tip: survey your competition and find out what they do well and what they don’t do well. Use that knowledge to do better. Be innovative. Make referral sources understand why you are the natural choice for patient care and not just another home health agency that plays follow the leader.