Agencies boost referrals by marketing the quality of care they provide

Republished with permission from Decision Health. Article originally published on Home Health Line.

Home Health Line

Whether they’re discussing QAPI, 5-star ratings or rehospitalization rates in general, more and more agencies are showcasing their quality of care when they market to referral sources, a new HHL survey shows.

The National Quality Forum’s Measures Applications PartnershiFive-star ratings in quality and patient satisfaction are the second- and third-most popular regulatory items agencies discuss with referral sources, according to 112 respondents to a question on HHL’s latest referrals survey.

And for some agencies such as Liberty At Home in Ambler, Pa., focusing on quality has led to a 15% increase in referrals.

But because so many agencies are addressing these things, it’s more important than ever that when meeting with referral sources, marketers come armed with the right information and attitude, industry experts say. Marketers also must understand what specific referral sources care about rather than taking a scattershot approach.

Liberty At Home has worked for years to educate referral sources about how much it stands out on the quality of care it provides, says Beth Larkin, the agency’s business development manager.

Liberty’s meetings with referral sources detail how it’s a 4.5-star agency in quality, how 99% of its patients are seen within 24 hours and how its rehospitalization rate is 11.8%, Larkin says.

Not every agency has good fortune when discussing quality of care. But during marketing meetings, some agencies don’t come fully prepared with outcomes data. Other agencies provide potential referral sources a boatload of data — including the kinds of things the referral sources likely wouldn’t care about, says consultant Eileen Freitag of Fazzi Associates, Northampton, Mass.

Chris Attaya, vice president of business intelligence for Santa Barbara, Calif.-based survey vendor Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP), contends the vast majority of referral sources consider four key pieces of data to be of interest: Overall HHCAHPS rating, 30-day rehospitalization rates, timeliness of care and emergent care without rehospitalization.

Before having conversations about quality, it’s crucial to ask referral sources about their pain points, Larkin warns. Sometimes — though rarely — quality isn’t the most important thing.

Larkin recommends agencies ask: “What’s important to you?”

Nine times out of 10, though, referral sources say outcomes.

When discussing how Liberty stands out on outcomes, “I always say, ‘The numbers don’t lie, the data doesn’t lie,’” Larkin says.

What topics do most marketers discuss?

About 54% of respondents have marketed their agency based on their star rating in quality, while about 52% have marketed their agency based on their star rating in patient satisfaction.

In a separate question on HHL’s 2017 Referrals Survey, 53% of 119 respondents say they already have leveraged their hospital readmission rates in response to the hospital requirements to reduce 30-day readmissions. And another 31% of respondents to that question plan to do this in the future.

QAPI and the revised Home Health Conditions of Participation (CoPs) overall also have become topics marketers commonly discuss with referral sources.

Most of the CoPs go into effect Jan. 13, 2018, though the performance improvement project requirement for QAPI begins July 13, 2018.

About 21% of HHL’s survey respondents have educated doctors about the revised CoPs.

In a separate question on the survey, about 37% of respondents said they have spoken with referral sources about their agency’s QAPI efforts. Half of that question’s respondents haven’t done so yet but plan to do so.

Stand out when marketing on quality

  • Cater conversations about quality to the kinds of data that are most important to specific referral sources. For instance, Attaya says, an orthopedic doctor would be most interested in things such as patients’ functional scores on Home Health Compare. And a surgeon would be interested in things such as surgical wound improvement. Community physicians, he notes, want to make sure patients are getting timely care and are safe at home — things like fall risk matter to them.
  • Don’t talk trash about competitors even if you know your agency stands out. Rather than telling referral sources something negative about a specific competitor, encourage potential referral sources to go on Home Health Compare and examine star ratings for agencies in your area, Larkin suggests. Saying negative things about competitors could leave a bad taste in potential referral sources’ mouths and cause more harm than good, she says.
  • Don’t start off by talking about QAPI — and don’t only talk about QAPI. When you discuss QAPI, you’re talking about the quality improvement projects you’re making or have made. That’s important to show referral sources — that your agency is actively working to improve, Attaya says. But you don’t only want to discuss areas where you feel improvement is necessary.
  • Keep it simple. You might need to explain what your star rating means, Freitag says. Not all referral sources are going to know what’s included in home health star ratings. Also, make sure not to overwhelm potential referral sources with a full, detailed CMS list of data, Freitag says.