The business of hospice is changing daily. Melynda Lee sees it. As consulting director for tech-enabled post-acute and behavioral health solutions provider SimiTree, Lee saw the industry’s expansion in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors prior to the pandemic, and has seen its regression since. The way out, she says, and the way up, is data.
“The first thing a hospice should look at is, what does conversion look like? That will help you know where your problem really is,” Lee says. “If your referrals are growing but your admissions are not, then why are you not bringing patients on to service? What’s happening there? Where is the breakdown?”
The answer, she says, lies in data. Better data, and more of it, specifically from the past three years, is increasingly the difference between a growing hospice and a sputtering one. Hospices must be able to review their past referrals and assess what has changed: what has slowed, what has completely stopped.
“I would say the most frequent success stories that we’re seeing are people getting back to basics — back to those best practices,” she says. Review your strategies and protocols. Check your data and build strategy around it. Study your conversions. And keep up with the times.
“Are your marketers going back out in the community the way they were before?” she says. “During the pandemic a lot of places were not open to marketers. In most cases they are again now. So we just have to make sure that we’re following those best practices.”
Best practices means taking three key steps to reinvigorate and reactivate your hospice. Lee offers a look at all three.
Conduct a market scan
The hospice data landscape has opened wide the past three years, with “better market data than we’ve ever had before,” Lee says. Because hospice is largely Medicare-driven, the available data is massive from both a hospice’s internal data in their EMR and their external data from Medicare.
“All of those pieces of internal data are important,” Lee says, “Your external data — your medicare claims data — is equally as important because that data tells you exactly what’s happening in your marketplace.”
Combing data effectively is the market scan that agencies need to give themselves a boost. Examples of the information they’re searching for:
- Where are the referrals going?
- Where are the referrals coming from?
- What do admissions look like for each of those providers?
- What has been the shift in market share?
- What have been the shifts in consumer behavior?
- What are physicians doing?
- What are SNFs doing?
“All of that is available in the market data, but you have to be an approved provider of that data to be able to access it and work with it or share it,” she says. A market scan, she notes, “is not something you’re going to get done in a day. But it can get accessed pretty quickly so that you start to see those trends.”
“10 qualified referral sources daily”: evaluate how your staff spends time
Your staff members are the direct conduit to your care delivery. If your conversions are lagging, one of the most vital insights into why is the work of your staff members. Hospices must be able to evaluate how their staff members spend their time. And the only way to know that is to engage with them.
“We recommend managers spend 50% or more of their time with their teams,” Lee says. “That means the intake manager, supervisor and director should be observing what’s going on in intake. That means the person who manages the hospice admissions staff should be spending that time with their staff. And certainly sales managers and directors should be spending that time in the field with their marketers.”
In fact, SimiTree recommends that sales managers should spend upwards of 75% of their time in the field with their teams, just as marketers have an efficiency number they should hit, too.
“Marketers should be in front of at least 10 qualified referral sources every day, moving that conversation along, providing solutions,” Lee says, adding that teams only reach that point through education and training. “If your team is not doing this, it’s probably significantly impacting your growth.”
SimiTree teaches hospice owners to teach staff how to self-assess. “Everyone, every day should be asking themselves with every activity, ‘Is this the best use of my time?’” Lee says. “And then it’s up to the managers to make sure people are trained and coached properly. Know what the expectations are, and know that they’re meeting those expectations.”
One final key metric for hospices for evaluating time management: how long providers take to get out to see a patient and family once they receive a referral. “With hospice, timing is critical,” she says. “We need to be seeing patients and families the same day as the referral.”
Define your value proposition
A hospice provider could be losing opportunities because they’re not using available data to see where they fit in the market, or because they’re not adequately evaluating their staff members’ time. But their struggle could be simpler than that: a lack of educating potential partners or patients on their value proposition.
“Every person in every provider agency should know how to articulate the value proposition of hospice care to either the referral source or the consumer or even potential employees,” Lee says. “‘Value proposition’ simply means that you’re solving a problem, providing a solution for something that is a pain point to that customer.”
Even in 2023, a gap remains between the benefits hospice can bring to a partner or patient, and how well that partner or patient understands those benefits. Succeed within those constraints and growth is on the way.
This article is sponsored by SimiTree. To connect with us and learn more about fully assessing and activating your opportunities to regain sustainable growth for your hospice program, visit us at simitreehc.com.