Collaboration with referral partners and community outreach have proven essential to hospice marketing efforts.
As demand for hospice care grows, hospice providers in an increasingly competitive marketplace are working to bring a larger share of those patients under their wings. In addition to traditional methods such as territory management and improving call volume, many are finding that the key to successful marketing is building relationships—with referral organizations, physicians, and ultimately the patients.
Nearly 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in hospice during 2017, close to 50% of Medicare decedents, up 4.5% increase from 2016, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. This includes patients who died while enrolled in hospice, were enrolled in hospice in 2016 and continued to receive care in 2017, as well as those who were discharged alive hospice care alive during 2017.
Referrals are the lifeblood of hospice. A key selling point that helps a hospice stand out to referral partners is the ability to make those partners’ jobs easier.
“Become the referral partner that discharge planners love to work with,” said Beryl Dore, administrator and director of nurses with Hope Healthcare & Hospice in a webinar sponsored by Hospice News’ sister site Home Health Care News. “You need to differentiate your agency, what makes you better, special or more intriguing to the referral sources.”
Many larger referral organizations, such as hospitals and health systems, have a computer-generated referral process that sends out referral notices to multiple hospice providers. Hospices generally have about 30 minutes to respond, according to Dore. Factors such as a streamlined admissions process and collaboration with discharge planners can make the difference in ensuring your hospice secures the referral.
“We need to be a resource for our referral partners. It’s important to have that competitive advantage, and that means doing things that the competitor does not do,” said Quincy Martindale, partner and administrator for Affinity Hospice, in the webinar. “We should be doing a lot less talking and a lot more listening, and we ought to be asking questions. There’s a strong push these days for needs-based selling. We need to figure out what is important to that referral source and then we need to capitalize on that.”
Needs-based selling, sometimes called consultative selling, focuses on adding value to your services by adapting them and your messaging to match the customer’s needs. Getting to know the discharge planners, physicians and other staff within referral partners’ organizations can go a long way towards promoting a hospice’s brand.
“Be of value to them. Sometimes take a consulting role and help them problem solve and take on some of their discharge planning,” Dore said. “My background is oncology so a lot of my value for the referring physicians I work with is having the difficult conversations with [patients and families] with — and a lot of the time for —[their physicians], to save time and to do a better job of relaying that information.”
In addition to forging strong relationships with referral partners, reaching the patients and families themselves, ideally before they reach a health crisis or at time of diagnosis, can help support hospice growth.
Numerous hospice providers offer educational programming in their communities to help prospective patients understand the nature of hospice and its benefits.
Hinds Hospice in Fresno, Calif., established a speakers’ bureau to promote their services and educate the public. The hospice’s community programs include events that cover advance care planning, serious illness in the workplace, background on hospice and palliative care, grief programs, caregiver and volunteer training and peditatric hospice, among other offerings.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Mission Hospice & Home Care developed community forums for discussions about death, dying and grief, as well as facilitated end-of-life planning, an annual serious of documentary films, are and writing workshops exploring loss and grief, as well as expert presentations. Mission also partners with other local health care organizations to support public awareness of hospice.
Lukin, Tex.-based Affinity Hospice does a great deal of outreach via local religious communities, including public speakers, grief counseling and education about advance care planning. The hospice also providers programming to educate local clinicians about hospice.
“It’s our responsibility as an industry to continue educating the public and to keep educating physicians, because they don’t learn anything about hospice care in medical school,” Affinity’s Martindale said.