When negotiating for preferred partnership status with a hospital, ACO or managed care organization, pitfalls outnumber opportunities. Those executives with the best strategies tend to do better than those with the best caregivers. Representatives from post-acute provider organizations shared their experiences last week in Chicago at a conference hosted by Lincoln Health, "Post-Acute Link."
One of the biggest mistakes post-acute providers make, panelists agreed, is sending a sales rep to speak to a discharge planner. That is not where relationships are forged, that is where occasional, sporadic referrals are doled out. When your CEO meets with a hospital CEO, the preferred setting for negotiating a partnership, he or she must not go in with the same attitude the sales person takes into a physician's office. "That hospital CEO, that ACO Director, that Managed Care Organization executive needs you," declared Alan Funk, President, Pomeroy Living, Inc. "You are an equal healthcare industry partner, engaged in a common effort. Plus, you carry solutions to their most pressing problems, value-based purchasing, bundled payments, and shared risk. Go into the meeting with the attitude that you are there to help them, not beg from them."
Kim Majick, Chief Development Officer for Carespring Health Care Management, said she used to bring binders and brochures to these meetings, where she would tell the doctor across the desk about all the wonderful services her home health agency offers, about all the metrics they were measuring. "Today, I bring a business card and a bunch of questions," she laughs. "I say I am there to listen. My goal is to determine whether it makes sense for us to work together, to develop trust, and to find out what is important to both parties. When I used to go in prepared to talk about our wonderful CHF program or our skilled wound care nurses, I was taken aback when instead they wanted to hear about our corporate structure. What they care about is whether we are local and, they assume, therefore offer personal attention; or if we are a public company focused, they assume, on stock price and shareholder dividends."
Be in the right office
Ms. Majick added that the CEO is not always the right person to meet with, and the panel agreed. "Always ask who handles post-acute preferred relationships," advised Mr. Funk. "If you find out you should be talking to someone else, be bold. Instead of apologizing for taking up the CEO's time, say, 'Can you get her on the phone right now? Please tell her someone in my system is going to be calling her.' CEOs love to delegate and get one more thing off their to-do list."
Further, do not be surprised if the preferred partner relationship hashed out in the board room upstairs is ignored by case managers and discharge coordinators on the ground floor. They have power of which CEOs are often unaware; and they have motivations you may never learn.
"That does not mean you do not do your homework so you can walk into that meeting prepared," added Jeff Spight, President of Collaborative Health Systems, a Wellcare Company. "You demonstrate your concern and professionalism when you know their diagnostic specialties, the demographic they serve, etc. If 80% of their patients or covered lives are CHF, do not lead with your diabetes expertise."
Nurture the relationship over time
Daniel Schwartz, COO of Almost Family, added, "You will continually be working through barriers. As your relationship evolves, one roadblock will be time and attention and interest as their initial enthusiasm wanes. Remember that there is real time but there is also such a thing as home care time and hospital time; each has different priorities. It is okay if a relationship starts small and evolves as you prove yourself into a full-fledged joint venture."
Schwartz added that it is important to be watchful for turnover. "Not the turnover you deal with on your own staff," he cautioned. "We have been in mutually beneficial relationships only to see the CEO or CFO who had been driving the relationship leave. This resets the partnership cycle for another year."
On one point, all panelists agreed. "Remember that you are a resource to be used. It is not about you and your programs, it is about the patients."
©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org