Shifting demographics and culture change. Declining reimbursements from government and other sources. High staff turnover. Increased competition. These are challenges faced by long-term care providers across the country, and western Pennsylvania is no different.
In fact, with its high concentration of seniors, this region will act as a proving ground for many of the new and innovative ways these challenges are faced and overcome. For a number of faith-based nonprofit providers in this region, they've found many of the answers to their challenges as mem-bers of the Faith-Based Network.
“The Faith-Based Network is a business alliance of faith-affiliated, nonprofit long-term care providers throughout western Pennsylvania,” says Earl Evens, the Network's president and CEO. “A number of our member organizations found they had common business challenges. Rather than go it alone and perhaps not survive, they allied themselves and are now positioned to thrive in what is still a volatile industry in terms of change.”
The Faith-Based Network was established in 1997 to help member organizations continue to provide quality programs and services for older adults through collaboration and participation in the Network's value-added programs. There are currently 14 member organizations representing eight different faiths. The Network accomplishes its mission through three major strategies:
Reduce members' costs through effective leveraging of their collective buying power for goods and services.
Develop business opportunities that generate new streams of revenue, lower costs, or enhance programs and services for Network members.
Identify and implement best practices to support quality improvement and culture change, enhancing members' position in the marketplace as the premier providers of high-quality, innovative programs and services for seniors.
“The Faith-Based Network is unique in several ways,” says Evens. “We’re large enough to effect change for members by virtue of leveraging our buying power, and we're small enough so that members can effect change from within. It's one member, one vote, regardless of the number of facilities or employees or budget a member has. This makes for a very democratic process in deciding the direction of the organization or what programs and services it will offer.”
Of its programs and services, perhaps the most successful for members to date are the training programs offered as part of its Learning Circle Initiative. At its 2001 Annual Management Retreat, member organizations identified training as an immediate need. Many had experienced difficulty in finding adequate training that was affordable, was flexible, and resonated with managers.
“Another issue involving training,” says Evens, “is that healthcare trainers are primarily familiar with the medical model or hospital as the setting. Our members don't have patients, they have residents and (their organizations) are based on more of a social model, which has been a cultural shift in the industry across the continuum of care.”
The Network, by virtue of its size and combined buying power, was able to pique the interest of Development Dimensions International, an internationally recognized leader in the field of training, in tailoring its healthcare program for the long-term care setting. Faith-Based Network markets this program today to its members as Leadership Excellence, which began in 2004 and has been a resounding success. The initial plan was to train 220 people. Between January 2004 and June 2005, more than 450 people were trained, and through self-evaluation surveys and independent observation, the following results were achieved:
68% of participants (59% of observers) saw an improvement in communication among employees.
44% of participants (52% of observers) saw improvement in employee morale.
7 of the 9 facilities that participated saw a decline in turnover (of the two that saw slight increases, one was involved in a labor strike).
“The customized training helps frontline supervisors and managers to become more effective coaches, helps them delegate properly, to empower and engage their staff so they feel valued and supported,” says Evens. “That translates directly into a living environment for residents where they are treated as individuals with respect and care.”
In addition to group purchasing and training, the Network offers many other programs and services to its members, including pharmacy through its own service, Rx Partners-LTC; group health insurance; and more.
Above all, the Network is about the business of long-term care. As Evens describes, the member organizations are the premier providers of long-term care in western Pennsylvania; they already know how to deliver quality care. The Faith-Based Network exists to help them deliver that quality care by providing cost savings; greater access to innovative programs, as well as funding for them; and a collaborative forum to share and learn from each others' best practices.