Obstacles exist for palliative care marketers trying to reach new payers, referral partners and clients. To navigate them, providers should keep four key strategies in mind.
At the heart of each of these strategies is the need to educate the audience you’re trying to reach. Widespread misconceptions about palliative care circulate among the public and clinicians in other fields.
“Patients don’t really understand what palliative care services are or that they are being offered,” Stan Massey, partner and chief strategy officer at Transcend Strategy Group, told Palliative Care News. “Referral partners understand the service but may not understand what you offer their patients.”
Gather the right data
Data are essential components when educating referral partners and payers.
These data should demonstrate how your business is helping clients. Massey said referral partners want to see meaningful numbers on patient outcomes before they work with you. And payers want to know to what extent a provider’s services can reduce the total cost of care.
“How successful are you at reducing ER visits, hospital admissions and readmissions, and tangibly improving patient satisfaction scores for those who are on your services versus patients that do not receive yours or any other type of services?” Massey said.
If you are serving a diverse patient population, isolating outcomes data by disease state allows providers to have meaningful conversations with specialists, Massey said.
The electronic health record (EHR) is the easiest place to find your patient data and collate it to share with your referral partners and payers. There are also companies you can partner with to mine and distill this data for you to ensure you’re painting a complete picture of the benefits you provide.
“What patients look like on a current metrics level and where the points of impact are carries the most weight at the payer level,” Rebecca Doleman, vice president of palliative programs at InHome Connect, told Palliative Care News.
Define the service
Before you can successfully market your services, you need to be able to define what they are and how they will benefit your target audience.
Patients and their families often associate palliative care with hospice, so they may be reluctant to enroll in the service. Payers and referral partners may also struggle to see the value in the service.
“There’s a lack of understanding of what palliative care is in the community and across the spectrum of payers, referral partners and other medical specialists, as well as patients and their families,” Doleman said.
Massey revealed that some of this misunderstanding happens because there is a lack of a clear definition of what palliative care includes. If payers and referral partners don’t have a clear idea of a provider’s care model, then patients won’t either.
“There’s a lot of variation to the type and the quality of programs in the palliative care space,” Doleman said. “Being able to speak to the pieces of your individual program and how that sets you apart and what level of care and services are being provided is important to selling your palliative care program to payers, referral partners and patients.”
Massey added that people are starting to understand the basics of how palliative care can help with pain and symptom management, but wide variation exists among different providers’ care models.
Some operators focus their attention on a single illness, such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or kidney disease.
With any chronic condition, helping potential clients understand palliative care can be delivered in tandem with curative care is crucial to dispelling the incorrect notion that these services are only available at the end of life.
Position your program
Payers are starting to see the value of palliative care services, but the need remains to demonstrate how the service fills a gap in the health care continuum. Health care is often siloed into different service lines, but payers are looking for providers that can serve the full continuum of care, Massey said.
“Medicare Advantage, managed care plans, UnitedHealthcare Group [(NYSE: UHN)], the big boys, would prefer to contract with fewer providers that have more services in a geographic footprint,” Massey explained. “Positioning palliative care within the continuum is important to landing that contract.”
For potential referral partners, spotlighting what patients could benefit from palliative care sooner helps position your business as a partner in improving patient outcomes, Doleman said.
“Help them identify the low-hanging fruit. Are there patients calling frequently after hours? Are there patients with frequent trips to the ER or frequent hospitalizations? Identify areas for collaboration with your service,” Doleman said.
This comes back to collating data that demonstrates improved outcomes and value. Operators can also use data to position themselves as a solution for potential patients’ problems and goals. While payers and referral partners are focused on outcomes, patients want to know that a palliative care provider can help them live their lives to the fullest, even with a chronic illness.
Measure your success
For patients, operators should assess the public’s engagement with ads or any educational content a provider has distributed.
The benchmark for measuring clickthrough rates in the health care industry is really low, Massey said. If a company sees a social media clickthrough rate as low as 0.05%, then they are meeting that benchmark. Tracking which pages people are visiting and where they are clicking can signal pain points to address in future campaigns.
When it comes to payers and referral partners, success comes when you land a contract, Doleman said.
“You get the green light to engage a partner’s patients,” she added. “Another measure of success is the willingness for other key stakeholders in a patient’s medical care to collaborate and coordinate on the quality of the program.”