Best Practice Tips

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The Affordable Care Act is in full swing and will change your current referral relationships. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are being formed in your marketplace with the desire to lower costs and improve outcomes. Your current Medicare referrals are at risk if your organization is not included. To prepare and protect your flow of Medicare referrals, re-look at the way you are projecting your image to referral sources and physicians. Make sure your building’s name and brand reflect that you are an expert in short-term rehab and sub-acute care.

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The Affordable Care Act introduced many policies and regulations which will have immediate, short-term and long-term effects on the Long-Term Care industry. Most relevant to your buildings’ bottom line are Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). What is the best way to stay on top of the ever evolving world of ACOs and what immediate actions should you take to protect your facility in this new world?

First, it is important to understand that all ACOs are structured differently. Some might be established by hospitals, while others by physician groups. Regardless of an ACO’s leadership, differences will also exist in the payment structure. An ACO can choose between three different models as it relates to Medicare reimbursement and shared savings plans. The key is not to know how every single ACO works, but rather to focus on the ACOs that will directly affect your facilities. As new ACOs are approved and announced via CMS, find out which ones are in your service area, which ones are potential referrals, and which models relevant ACOs are following.

Setting up email alerts to receive up-to-date announcements is a great way to make sure you are aware of developments in your area. Google has a free email alert service that can be set up here. Keywords to set alerts for are: ACO, CMS, Shared Savings, and Accountable Care Organizations.

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Tracking and sharing resident & patient satisfaction is essential for today’s SNFs and CCRCs. Much like reading an online product or service review, consumers want to be assured that others are happy and content with the care and service provided at a LTC facility. Sharing positive satisfaction survey results through methods like email blasts to family members or direct mail to the trade will build a positive reputation for your organization and help put you top of mind for the next referral or admission

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As the LTC industry continues to evolve, providers need to be more focused on resident-centered care, with a particular emphasis on quality of life. This is important for many reasons.

Compliance with the new quality-of-life requirements from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is sure to impact bottom-line results. Surveyors are paying closer attention to how SNFs are focused on the resident, including the creation of homelike environments or “neighborhoods” which enhance quality of life in-line with resident preferences.

This leaves facilities with the responsibility of actively seeking information relating to resident preferences and choices, and attempting to accommodate them as best they can. If a SNF has not done so, surveyors will require them to provide an explanation.

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Whether a free standing SNF or large CCRC, word of mouth referrals is a must in today’s competitive marketplace. You can increase your word of mouth referrals by leveraging your relationship with residents and families that have been “touched” by your services and programs. Remind them of your expertise and leadership in senior care and their good experience with your organization. Keep in mind that communicating with them via email can save time and money.

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To cut through the clutter in today's fast-paced environment, successful communicators utilize both direct mail and email marketing to get their message across. Email marketing provides an easy and cost-efficient way to connect and keep in touch, while direct mail is highly effective when used as part of a targeted, consistent campaign. This dual approach has been proven successful over time.

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Step 1: Turn your short-term rehab patients into “ambassadors” for your facility

It’s no secret that there’s been a significant increase in the growth of this group over the past 10 years, and statistics show that 40% of short-term rehab patients return to the senior care system in just 7 months.  By making every effort to achieve high levels of satisfaction, you will not only ensure that many of your former patients will come back to you, they’ll also become a great source of word-of-mouth referrals and admissions.

Keep in mind that short-term rehab patients bring with them a whole new set of criteria in terms of achieving high levels of satisfaction.  They are, for the most part, younger and more discriminating in what it takes to satisfy them and their family members.  Focus on meeting and exceeding their expectations by developing specific quality service standards, and make sure all employees are fully trained on those quality service standards.  

 

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The goal of your website should be to generate inquiries. The way to do that is to create engaging, clear and relevant content that not only tells a potential inquiry about who you are, but also how you’ll be the solution to their healthcare needs. Americans tap search engines more than 12 billion times a month to find everything from stroke rehab to jambalaya recipes. Make sure that each of your care services has their own dedicated page on your website. By doing this, it will allow your services to get found by those searching and generate new inquiries into your building.

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Last week I wrote about the first four steps in designing a LTC website design.  To review, when building a website, there are many factors that you should keep in mind in order to maximize your online presence.  The purpose of a LTC website is to engage seniors and families so that they contact you via email, phone, online form, or perhaps even a visit.  Part two of this blog will focus on the rest of the nine necessary steps that need to be taken to make your website a new referral source that generates its own inquiries.

Step Four: Individual pages for clinical services

As mentioned above, it is very important to describe all of your clinical capabilities. Each service should have its own dedicated page on the website. If you have one page with a listing of all of your short term rehab services, it forces visitors to search through the text until they find the service most relevant to them. Instead, create a dedicated short term rehab tab on your menu bar along with a drop-down list that displays all your short term rehab services. With drop-down lists, users can find the page they are interested in with just one click..

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When building a website, there are many factors that you should keep in mind in order to maximize your online presence.  The purpose of a LTC website is to engage seniors and families so that they contact you via email, phone, online form, or perhaps even a visit.  This two part blog will focus on the nine necessary steps that need to be taken to make your website a new referral source that generates its own inquiries.

Step One: Easy navigation

The quickest way to lose someone who is viewing your website is to make it difficult for them to navigate through the site. Have a menu bar on top of the page that displays the main areas of your site, along with drop-down sub-menus so that every page is accessible with one click of the mouse. Ensure your site does not have any ‘buried’ pages that are only accessible after two or more clicks from any page on your site.

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The central location for all your internet activities is your website. It serves as a hub for all your online communications. In digital marketing, your website acts like the front door to your facility. A website designed by a LTC professional, with copy written by an LTC professional, will work to immediately engage visitors – using the content on the site to quickly create a positive feeling about you and your credibility as a senior care expert.

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For a large amount of the population, the internet has become a digital playground; an area to share thoughts, ideas, information, a place to research and obtain knowledge. LTC facilities need to take advantage of this and turn the internet into their newest referral source opportunity.

Most people know this already. But now what?!? The first step is developing a website. Not just any website, but one that is designed from the ground up by LTC experts to get your organization found. From navigation to content a site developed by someone who knows our industry will get you found and help you stand out.

While having a website is crucial, it is only the first step in helping your facility get found. The website needs supplementary pieces (legs to stand on), in order to be found. A website without legs is like an unlisted phone number. Yes it exists, but no one will be able to contact you.

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Typically, marketing is thought of as running print ads in the local newspaper or having a listing in a senior reference guide. While there may be some value in these programs, one of the most overlooked audiences to communicate with is your internal audience. Everyone always talks about how word-of-mouth referrals is key to generating inquiries, but few owners or operators actually take advantage of this “lowest hanging fruit” opportunity.

The internal audience can be defined as anyone who already “knows” you and has a relationship with you (either current or past). This includes residents (especially for ILs and ALs), family members / responsible parties of residents, short-term rehab discharges that have successfully returned home, donors (for non-profits) and staff. Everyone listed here can turn from friend to referral source if the relationship is leveraged effectively.

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In today’s digital environment simply having a website is not enough. You must actively drive traffic to your website. Email marketing provides an easy and efficient way to connect and keep in touch with all stakeholders. Effective email marketing brings people to your website and ensures that you are top of mind when someone is in need of short-term rehab or long-term care. Combined with the expertly written content included as part of the LTC Digital Marketing Program, email marketing can have a significant impact on helping you establish and nurture relationships that will turn strangers into friends and friends into referral sources.

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Today, marketing plays a key role in creating inquiries for you to turn into admissions.  With newspapers closing up shop in favor of online web papers and with most research today done online, it’s only a matter of time before all media and marketing is digital. However, right now and for the foreseeable future traditional media must take a prominent role in marketing activities.

The AARP recently conducted a study on the usage of internet among midlife and older adults.  Their findings while not unexpected clearly highlight the reality we live in. Nearly 68% of the people surveyed age 50 and older do in fact use a computer, either at home or at work.  What this means though is that nearly 32% of this important demographic does not use a computer at all, not even at work.  So, the time to dedicate all your marketing activities to the digital world is not yet upon us, unless of course you are you willing to neglect a third of your market share completely?

In order to get full value from your marketing campaigns, you need to find the right balance between digital and print media.  In some markets traditional media will be prominent and a digital program will supplement it. In other markets digital marketing will take precedence.  To determine what balance is correct for your organization, test out your marketing campaigns in both forms; then, most importantly, track the source of inquiries as they come in.  After a certain amount of time, you’ll be able to analyze the data and determine what’s working and what’s not, giving you better information to make the appropriate adjustments.

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It’s no secret that the world is going digital. In fact, a recent study found that 82% of adults ages 50+ who use the internet, research health and wellness information online. Today, a well designed and managed digital marketing campaign is more than just a website; it has the power to become one of your most effective and efficient ways to attract inquiries and referrals - whether for short-term rehab, specialty care or traditional long-term care.

 

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As healthcare reform is constantly evolving, there is always a need to protect your Medicare market share.  While the long-term care community enhance their marketing and communications efforts to address this concern, it is important to remember that word of mouth is still one of your best referral sources.  Making every single person who touches your building an “ambassador” to the public is key to keeping your building full.  Here are a few simple ways in which your building can increase their word of mouth referrals.

Make the most of every opportunity: It is important to remember that word of mouth can be influenced.  Take advantage of the opportunity that exists with every person that touches your building-from long-term care patients, to your short-term rehab residents, their happy family members and your employees.  Don’t be shy to ask each person’s permission to use their “story” and their outcomes when communicating with the hospital and physician referral sources.  Ask for written testimonials, thank you notes, audio and video testimonials and pictures.

Tagged in: Referrals
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Since the majority of internet information is found through a search engine, ensuring that your building appears in the first few results is key. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) allows your building to immediately compete for that prize real estate at the top of the search results. However, make sure that your SEM campaign is built by an expert in the LTC community who knows how consumers looking for LTC services behave when searching online. Otherwise you will end up with a generic cookie cutter SEM program that will not deliver the desired results.

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“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet

Protecting your LTC building’s reputation has never been more important. Inc. Magazine recently reported that 97 percent of consumers conducted online research to find local businesses. The information about your senior care facility that’s available on the web is absolutely critical.

Customer reviews, social media mentions and online name visibility directly influence a senior care provider’s ability to generate inquiries, referrals and admissions. A strong online reputation promotes consumer trust and is a testimony to your high quality of care, while negative reviews, or a tarnished online reputation, can cost an LTC facility thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

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A three step plan for getting found online

Monitoring and tracking performance

Perhaps one of the most satisfying aspects of a digital marketing program is that you can actually measure results.

A properly built and managed website allows you to track the number of people visiting your site, when they visited, and what information (content) attracted their interest.  This information provides the insight necessary to help you engage more people.  The more people you engage, the more opportunities you have to generate inquiries through your digital marketing program.

In addition, performance can be measured by comparing the number of visitors and their actions on your website with the promotional activities you are using to drive traffic to your site.  This gives a clear view on exactly what’s working and what’s not so you can maximize your marketing ROI.

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