It is not uncommon for census and revenue challenges to result from issues that have negatively impacted your facility’s reputation. I knew a client who had changed its name, but the surrounding community still remembered the facility by its former name and reputation, which was impacting its ability to grow census. And it gets worse: The name change had taken place more than 15 years before!
How do you deal with a situation like this? What can you possible say or do to turn things around?
You must understand the nature of reputations and how they develop. Negative reputations can happen catastrophically or gradually over an extended period of time. Here are two examples:
- One of my clients had an adverse incident with a recently admitted resident. A trapeze, which was installed inappropriately by the durable medical equipment vendor, collapsed when this resident tried to adjust themselves in bed, sending them crashing to the floor and causing a significant injury. The facility had a solid reputation up until that point. Following the incident, however, referrals from the orthopedic unit at their top referral source completely dried up.
- Another client faced significant reputation issues—census was 182 out of 260—which had developed not because of one specific incident, but due to years of neglecting the basics of providing good care and service. The net effect was summed up by a comment from the director of case management at their largest referral source: “Your reputation with the public is that you kill people.” 20 years before, the facility was considered the facility of choice for nursing care in the area.
A strategy to overcome your reputation challenge should have four components:
1. Create a plan to fix the problem. In the case of the first example, the facility created a policy that the director of rehab or the director of nursing must inspect all equipment installed or delivered by outside vendors. In the second example, the owners had created a comprehensive plan to overhaul the facility and improve the quality of the care and services. This plan included significant physical plant improvements, department head changes, nursing department changes and investment in technology. (By the way, you don’t have to have your plan fully implemented to recapture market share; creating a plan and committing to its fulfillment is enough to begin your comeback.)
2. Meet with your referral sources to gain feedback on your reputation. Your referral sources have valuable insight into how your reputation is impacting your ability to grow. Meet with them to gain this feedback. Ask them: Can you tell us what we are doing well? What should we be doing differently or better? What do patients or families say about our reputation?
3. Communicate your plan to referral sources and families making healthcare decisions. Once your plan has been developed and you’ve understood what your reputation is, communicating your plan “to right the ship” is the key to re-developing your referral relationships and helping families change their perception about your facility.