NCP Guidelines: Domain 1 - Structure and Processes of Care
December 8, 2018
Creating the Future: How to Survive and Thrive in 2014
January 2, 2014
Change is constant. For hospices, palliative care organizations and others working in this field, preparing for an uncertain future is daunting. Putting your head in the sand and pretending it's the halcyon years of our industry just won't cut it as we witness more hospices closing their doors, companies merging and new acquisitions announced every week.
I've come up with some ideas that might help your organization or company survive and thrive in 2014 in our ever-changing world.
Diversify or Die
For hospices, the signs are all there – they’ve been there all along: The growth in hospice is slowing down. Lengths of stay are declining or at best plateauing. As someone way smarter than me (Reginald M. Hislop, III) pointed out in a recent blog post:
If, as CMS and Medpac suggest, that as much as 25% of the certifications in the dementia (non-Alzheimers), general debility and failure to thrive categories don’t have any other diagnostic comorbidities suggestive of imminent death (6 months or less), than a quarter of the “demand” is logically lost.
Hospices, palliative care providers, and the vendors and associations that serve them need to find ways to diversify their revenue stream. Creating new service or product lines requires an investment of time and money which is risky. Yet doing nothing could result in your organization closing its doors. Those companies that don’t diversify or partner to provide a broader scope of services OR serve a bigger segment of the market are unlikely to survive.
Hospices can refer to my previous blog post Hospices Struggling to Build Sustainable Palliative Care for some specific ideas about creating palliative care programs to help strengthen your economic engine.
Do More with Less
Every sector of the healthcare market is learning how to do more with less. As both the Federal and state governments are searching for ways to save money, reimbursement rates aren’t going to increase even as the cost of providing care continues to rise. That means that providers as well as those who provide products and services to providers will have less revenue in 2014.
This isn’t rocket science, it’s just math (which sometimes seems like rocket science when I’m looking at my son’s homework). However the implications of this ongoing decrease in revenue for providers is significant. Last year I attended a CEO peer group at a national hospice conference and the entire hour was focused on how to cut costs. Finding ways to save money without decreasing the quality of services provided is essential for survival.
There are plenty of great ideas out there on how to increase your purchasing power and streamline operations. Join a list serve or LinkedIn group and ask your peers for their ideas rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
Be Paranoid About Your Peers
As payers look for ways to save healthcare expenditures, everyone is looking for ways to decrease costs of care for those in the final months and years of life. Over the past few years we’ve seen managed care organizations, ACOs, health systems, long-term care providers, geriatric care providers and others enter the advanced illness management space. This is only going to increase in 2014 as everyone seeks to find ways to survive the changes that are happening in the healthcare marketplace.
This means that competition is going to come from all directions. In the past 3 years alone we’ve seen new companies helping organizations become advanced illness care providers (Turn-Key Health), health systems adding advanced illness management programs (Sutter Health), ACOs contracting with hospices to provide palliative care (Hospice of Michigan), and new national coalitions are working to improve advanced illness (C-TAC).
I don’t really want you to be paranoid. However knowing what your peers are doing by following them on social media, creating Google News Alerts and scanning the business section of the local papers, will help you prepare for the future. What your competitors do should never dictate your strategy. It should inform your marketing, your business development and your decisions about who to partner with moving forward. Keep your friends close and your competition in your rear view mirror!
Clarify What You Do, Why You Do it, Who You Serve and What Your Goals Are
All of the above means is that your organization must be crystal clear about what needs to happen to succeed.
The best way to do this is to ensure that everyone who works for your organization knows:
What you do (service and/or product line)
Why you do it (connection to your mission, business plan, strategic plan)
Who your customers /market is for each product and service (marketing plan)
What you need accomplish in the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months to survive (short and long-term goals)
Engage all your staff in efforts to clarify the items listed above and to help create talking points they can use with customers and prospects to better promote your organization.
Step Up Your Game to Break Through the Noise
Decreased revenue and increased competition makes it imperative that you create targeted marketing and branding that clearly conveys who you are and what you do. If your organization just does one thing (e.g. hospice provider) you need to ensure that you are the BEST provider in your service area(s). However, if you just do one thing, go back and read what I wrote about diversifying your revenue….
If your company or organization provides more than one type of service – hospice AND advanced illness management or DME for hospices AND DME for long-term care facilities – you need to be sure that your messaging and branding is clear, concise and targeted.
Relying on your reputation, decades of service, tired old website, snail mail mailings, same-old fundraisers and occasional newsletters or advertisements isn’t going to cut it. You need to break through the noise, demonstrate the value you bring to those you serve and differentiate yourself from your competitors. Each and every day.
Create the Future for Your Organization
I hope this post hasn’t left you yearning for the good old days and terrified about the future. The future isn’t written in stone, it’s ours to create. As Dennis Gabor wrote “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.” So I invite you to dive into to 2014, creating the long-term future for your organization.