Free-standing home health agencies (HHA) must develop viable plans for remaining competitive in the home healthcare market. The industry is ever-growing and lead generation is at the crux of any successful HHA agency. Even though a fair amount of patient referrals are made through word of mouth, in order to increase organizational profit and remain competitive, a solid marketing strategy – just as in any other industry – is imperative for all HHAs.
So how do the most successful free-standing HHAs maintain and increase their patient loads while providing top-quality care? Read on as I describe Best Practices for the home healthcare market used by some home health and hospice agencies, some of whom could very well be your competitors.
Develop a Specific Strategy
Take it from a strategy expert, Michael Porter, who is a professor based at the Harvard Business School. Porter says, “A strategy delineates a territory in which a company seeks to be unique.”And, “Sound strategy starts with having the right goal. ”It’s surprising how some agencies overlook this very basic- but-important step of organizational goal setting. Scheduling time to do so is always time well spent.
Lucrative agencies also know how to leverage their organization as a single, integrated resource for more health care delivery solutions. They are mindful to evaluate opportunities by target markets and audiences, as well as geographical regions. This is a daunting task when a specific strategy hasn’t been outlined.
Benchmarking is a point of reference for which measurements can be made. Benchmarking is designed to be functional and not burdensome to you or your staff. Stand-out agencies nearly always use benchmarking, and it’s a great way to start planning your company-specific marketing strategy.
Consider these models of benchmarking:
- Set a goal for your profit margin
- Measure profit goals on a monthly basis
- Determine percentage of revenue to be used for marketing costs
- Establish a higher Medicare payer mix
- Track referral-to-actual-patient conversion rates
- Develop performance targets for staff
- Invest in benchmarking software
Traditional Marketing Strategies
There’s nothing wrong with enlisting other time-proven marketing strategies such as community outreach. Successful HHAs don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, nor should you if it doesn’t feel right.
Conventional marketing can include everything from speaking at local senior activities and rotary clubs to print, TV, radio and online advertising for your home health agency. The primary point of such events is to educate, with the secondary goal of marketing your “brand.” Talk about health care issues that matter most to patients and their families, or hire a speaker to accompany you.
Develop, and then distribute company brochures following a speaking engagement. Host an open house at a local venue that won’t bust your budget.
New Ways to do Business
Successful free-standing home health agencies find new patients in an assortment of ways, and this can require a different slant than the ways hospital-based HHAs go about it. Many patients of a free-standing agency will travel quite a ways to see their physicians. In those instances, consider in-person visits to any doctor’s office or hospital that are (or could potentially be) referring patients. And don’t forget your brochures. Or your gratitude, but of course.
Here are a few more innovative strategies to consider that busy agencies are observed to have in common:
- They write a regular blog or hire a writer. (We trust you have a web site. If not, find a web developer or purchase the software to create your own website) Incorporate your blog into a newsletter, or delve further into blog topics during any speaking engagements. Include your website address on your brochures and newsletters.
- They offer special services in addition to home health care, such as day surgery support, or even grocery or pharmaceutical delivery services. By developing a niche, your HHA will be set apart from the competitors.
- They’re not afraid to reach out from time-to-time to those who have turned down their services. You may uncover approaches to new patients that just aren’t working and other very useful information.
- They research the many potential benefits of telehealth. You can start by reviewing my prior post on telehealth and HHAs. Should you invest in this growing and profitable trend, shave off some costs by asking your vendor to train home health aides to install user-friendly telehealth equipment in patient homes.
- They assess and fine tune their entrepreneurial leadership capabilities. Where can your leaders improve? What are other agency owners doing that is unique and brings in new patients?
Don’t take a seat next to low- or average-performing agencies. Rather, find a niche market, enlist the strategies of other successful agencies, and be open-minded as you strive to stay competitive in the home health market.
Finally, never lose sight of the fact that hiring quality caregivers is fundamental for the continued success of any HHA, free-standing or not. Every time they enter a patient’s home, your agency’s healthcare providers are doing their fair share of marketing, whether they realize it or not.