Now that we have entered January, is your agency ready with a plan of action? Maybe your budget is done, but have you thought about other areas of your organization?
Has your organization reviewed marketing goals to meet projected revenue or figured out how you are going to meet those revenue projections? What about operations? Have you thought about streamlining workflow, using your EMR to the fullest capabilities or pushing your software vendor to do what you need their software to do?
These are all important questions to ask. As agencies continue to undergo a structural change in reimbursement and are expected to do more with less, your agency must adapt. In the past month we have already seen agencies decide that operating in the current environment isn’t worth it. However, the agency’s decision to close or sell isn’t necessarily the best or only option.
Marketing in 2016 has to be innovative. Your agency’s marketing team must be aware of staying within all kick-back statutes and other regulations, but needs to become the ‘go-to referral solution’. Staff need to be available, do what they promise and really understand your agency’s mission. Agency owners must also get out of the office, and sometimes their comfort zones, and market as well. As we have said many times before, agency owners are often the best asset to perform marketing duties. Agencies that have grown from a small startup to a multi-million dollar enterprise employing hundreds and serving thousands of patients have all done so based on the owner’s ability to sell their agency’s unique abilities and differences.
Stop for a second, and think about your agency – what is your agency’s abilities and what makes your agency different? Does your marketing staff know this? Do referral sources know this or do referral sources just know your agency by your marketing staff, thinking he or she is just another rep from another home health agency that wants Medicare patients? This is a big distinction. If you can’t answer this simple question, this could be why you have yet to see your hard work pay off. If you aren’t different, innovative and unique – then you are the same as everyone else and referral sources have no need or desire to refer to you. Don’t let the fact that there are 50 or 100 other agencies within the same area as your agency stop you. Stand up and stand out.
In 2016, clinical excellence needs to be a priority. With the consistent and timely releases of OASIS data becoming public knowledge, your agency is going to be constantly compared against others in your area. Agencies that do well are not shy about sharing their 4-5 star rating. However, agencies that are not yet in the 4-5 star rating range, are not necessarily promoting their rating. These ratings don’t mean the end of the world for an agency. The ratings are actually a starting point to improve compliance and clinical outcomes. If anything, ensuring your agency improves or keeps their high rating is just another part of your operating model that ensures consistent high quality.
The budget you prepared for 2016 is likely a guide and a best estimate of where you expect revenue and expenses to fall within the coming months. But have you looked at any of those budget items to see if they could be adjusted? Can you reduce expenses – consolidate positions, reduce overhead, utilize a different staffing model? Any savings you can achieve, large or small, are ultimately going to help your agency.
Cash flow is the biggest concern for every agency. Sometimes the profit on paper doesn’t match the expected cash flow. If you have internal administrative staff such as an accountant or a bookkeeper, you might want to consider outsourcing your accounting to another firm who can provide the services you need at a much lower rate. While payroll can be complicated, an experienced payroll processor like Payroll Simplicity (payrollsimplicty.com) who knows home health and healthcare can greatly assist an agency. The same goes for billing. If you have billing staff onsite and your cash flow is lagging, an outside group such as Optima Billing (optimabilling.com) might be a great resource to help your agency improve cash flow while reducing overhead. While you may fear that outsourcing is giving up control, outsourcing to the right agency shouldn’t be. You should actually come out with a better understanding of what is going on and a better idea of how well your agency is really doing.
Operations tie directly into reducing overhead and potentially outsourcing certain functions within your agency. The workflow of your agency should be smooth. If the patient intake, insurance verification, acceptance, scheduling and start of care processes seem slow or cumbersome, things need to change. An easy to follow, simple and common sense approach should be followed. The tough part can be balancing the EMR’s role within your intake process. As some EMR systems are more rigid than others, working within your system to develop a sensible workflow will only enhance your agency’s ability to see new patients faster and improve cash flow.
Cash flow is the common theme in 2016 – all facets of your organization tie directly into cash flow. Whether it’s marketing and operations which translate into new patients, or billing and expenses – you need to ensure that your cash flow is sufficient and consistent. Trying new methods to achieve that positive cash flow so that you, the owner, can continue to collect a paycheck is important. Create a plan and follow it – this is your agency’s year with some quick action now. Otherwise, it could be a tough year with increased competition and fewer referrals coming your way.