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The Care and Feeding of Sales Champions


In today's climate of declining reimbursement, sales teams need more than pats on the back to improve referrals, boost census and feed the bottom line; they need clear and concise information about their home health or hospice organization's commitment to quality backed by objective data about patient outcomes.

According to Kara Osborne, Senior Manager at Simione, hospitals and other health networks want to validate both clinical and financial benefits in forging relationships with home care and hospice organizations. "Leaders in home health and hospice care must develop ways to help hospitals and other care partners monitor quality throughout the continuum. We must ask important questions like, 'How can my agency extend the patient experience after discharge?', incorporating new technology and enhancing communication with referral sources to cultivate provider and patient loyalty," Osborne says.

Mike Ferris, a Simione Principal, agrees. "Once a home health or hospice agency determines the right metrics for driving growth, it must communicate value through its outcomes. A sales team that is empowered with information about patient outcomes will sustain a high level of pride and passion for the difference their agency makes in its community. At the same time, they will be able to demonstrate their agency's parallel efforts to reduce readmissions, control costs and improve patient satisfaction," he says. 

Ferris and Osborne, who presented this week at Decision Health's Power Home Health Referrals Conference in Las Vegas, suggest these and other key ingredients to satisfy the appetites of hospitals and networks seeking solutions to their biggest challenges:

• Periodic interviews with referral sources to understand issues of concern

• Strategies and language/scripting to convey solutions and benefits to each party, including an overriding value proposition and ways to reduce preventable readmissions, cut costs, and improve patient satisfaction

• Knowledge about the common chronic diagnoses and their potential complications

• A performance dashboard that is visible to team members and discussed regularly

• Initial and periodic training to refine sales skills and account/territory management

"Once you understand how quality is defined in any given facility, you can demonstrate how your services and solutions complement its efforts. It's not enough to say 'We offer that service'. The demands for outcomes and financial data will be high. You will need to demonstrate the value that your home care or hospice agency can bring to the table," Osborne explains.

Beyond hiring and training a talented sales team, Ferris recommends that home health and hospice organizations also structure sales management with specific goals for key account sales, phone sales, and targeting activities for facilities, physicians, and patient navigators or care coordination liaisons. "While a savvy, data-oriented sales team can present the value proposition consistently across all provider audiences, each aspect of a home health or hospice sales program must be nourished to ensure the timely flow of information for goal-setting, targeting, troubleshooting, and follow-through to manage the expectations of a growing referral base.

"Every home health and hospice organization will always have more potential accounts than they can effectively call on and build relationships with. For that reason, each organization needs to keep its sales team focused and well-fed with information, support and incentives to do the job well – with a high level of enthusiasm for their organization and the patients it serves," Ferris says.