Hospices Leverage Technology to Improve Client Relationships

Hospice providers are increasingly embracing customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to streamline communications with referral partners and improve connectivity to prospective patients.

With communications and connectivity strained amid social distancing during COVID-19, the pandemic has impacted hospice provider relationships with both referral partners and patients. Hospices have increasingly turned to technology to reach patients sooner in the course of their illnesses and build rapport across the care continuum. Customer relationship management solutions have entered the business of hospice as providers work to improve patient outreach while gaining a better understanding of patient care goals.

“A customer relationship management solution is a piece of software that’s used to manage the relationships,” said Michael Ferris, managing partner of Healthcare Strategica, a strategic sales advisory organization specializing in hospice, palliative, post-acute and long-term care. “For hospice settings, referral partner relationships have always been one of the biggest challenges, with so many late patient referrals coming in. Where hospice can make the biggest difference is if they have the patient on their service for longer, and CRM solutions can help with that.”

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Late hospice admission can impact the quality of life for patients and their families as well as cause increased utilization of acute care resources, such as hospitalizations. Many hospices have found that strengthening relationships with referral organizations and physicians is key to bridging the outreach gaps and forming relationships with patients to ensure goal-concordant end-of-life care.

“We’ve definitely seen growth over the years in hospice programs that have a CRM-type of solution,” Ferris told Hospice News. “It’s really important in a hospice setting to have an industry-specific solution, but most sales management processes are not applicable in hospice or home health. You might have staff who are very passionate about hospice care, but not necessarily have a strong sales background that puts it into practice. It’s also important to have a CRM that has an integrated database of market intelligence data, and most of this for hospices is derived from claims data.”

Customer relationship management solutions can be used to gather market research on customers, generate more reliable sales forecasts and coordinate information quickly between sales staff and customer support representatives to more accurately gauge the return on individual promotional programs and the effect of integrated marketing activities, according to a 2018 business insight report from Bain and Company

In terms of hospice, CRM could be beneficial in shedding more light on patient and family needs and preferences around delivery and quality of care, according to Ferris. Providers can collect and manage large amounts of patient data to help identify underlying issues and design programs and services around improving patient satisfaction and experiences.

“You don’t have to get too deep into functionality with all the bells and whistles when implementing a new CRM solution,” said Ferris. “Even [electronic health records (EHRs)] have some CRM functionality on the front end of their systems. When purchasing, identifying and acquiring a solution, figure out what are those core business processes that you would benefit from automating with that solution and then stay focused on that.”

Some basic CRM functionalities hospices could benefit from focusing on include ensuring widespread utilization across staff, maintaining a secure database of referral partners with contact-specific details and communication method preferences, along with scheduling and calendar management capabilities, Ferris told Hospice News. Tracking when a patient enters hospice is equally as important as knowing where they came from and how, with CRM solutions allowing for quicker and improved access to referring sources.

“Having the ability to compare practices with a higher index of patients prior to hospice selection but a lower index when it comes to how many patients they actually refer to hospice, that kind of a comparison in your CRM solution can really intelligently target good physician practices for a lot of hospices,” Ferris said. “It can help partners see how hospice makes their practice run better and has better outcomes for their patients.”

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