Rebuilding trust as we emerge from a national pandemic

By Candace McMullen, Executive Vice President of Consulting and Business Development

One year ago, our country was beginning to realize the impact of COVID-19 on daily life. Limitations on travel, remote work, mask wearing, social distancing, and quarantines were just a few of the newest introductions to life as we knew it.

We have moved through the green, yellow and red zones more times than we can count.  The media portrayed us as heroes and as villains.  Through it all, our only focus has been the safety of our residents, staff, and families. Nine months after we closed our doors to visitation, we found ourselves coordinating vaccination clinics! Finally, an end is in sight. We seem to be in the final step and cautiously optimistic that a different life was on the horizon and we would emerge from pandemic management and into “normal” operations.

Revenue and Occupancy Building Strategies

Establishing occupancy improvement plans and using different marketing approaches from the past is a must. Public opinion of senior living providers is mixed. Those who resided in a community throughout the pandemic appear to be satisfied with their care and services. Residents and families who experienced the pandemic within our walls saw the effort and compassion of our team. Those who continue to live in the community at large but who may need our service in the future do not share the same perspective. Their sphere of influence is defined by the media.

We will rely on a collective effort will demonstrate to new consumers our facilities commitment, expertise, and safety conscious approach to caring for their VIP (very important person).  We have to validate our solid performance and rebuild trust and confidence in our service to the community.  Here’s how:

·       Encourage staff vaccination and set high targets for vaccination goals. Continuous education, using fact and dispelling fiction, and re-shifting the vaccine focus to our core mission of protecting residents are strategies that work. Utilize your QAPI knowledge and process to demonstrate robust vaccination programs.

·       Evaluate your physical plant and utilize your available space in the most safe and efficient manner. With decreased occupancy, the opportunity to “right-size” your facility exists.  Use this opportunity to evaluate your competitors, available beds, and community needs to reposition your facility for future success.  Now is the perfect time to bring the marketing, clinical and finance expertise to the table in determining the right size for your facility.

·       Incorporate your infection control improvements, such as ventilation and air exchange improvements and improved cleaning protocols in your marketing strategy.

·       Evaluate your digital marketing presence and identify ways you can transform your online presence.  Society’s increased reliance on the internet makes it imperative that providers have a solid digital marketing plan.

·       As the annual survey process resumes, it is important for you to demonstrate positive clinical outcomes and facility processes.  With increased consumer reliance on the internet, your survey outcomes, while available online for quite some time, will take on a heightened level of importance for future consumers.

·       A mock survey with an independent review of your clinical records, facility processes and physical plant can assist providers with both maintaining regulatory compliance as well as marketing consumers.  Pay close attention to infection control processes for staff compliance particularly in light of the increased enforcement for repeat infection control citations. Infection control citations not only impact consumer trust but will likely result in increasing civil monetary penalties depending on a provider’s history.

·       Evaluate your local market providers, both upstream and downstream and align your organization with solid performers offering a variety of services.  Establish a team goal to be the nursing facility provider of choice within your provider network.

·       The shift from RUG IV to Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) occurred just months before the pandemic started without sufficient time for providers to understand the new system and monitor their payment experience.  An audit of your clinical records can help you identify if you are managing your Medicare reimbursement processes both for optimization and compliance.

We have been collectively knocked down by the pandemic. Together, we must rise to again earn that trust and to serve our community.

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