Competing against FREE geriatric care management services is probably the biggest strategic challenge you face in a private practice.
The perception that the free hospital based care manager or the care coordinator embedded with a physician’s office is the same as a fee-for-service geriatric care manger is so off base it’s not even funny.
Yet, it’s FREE so it’s an easy sell, right?
We all know you get what you pay for and, while there are some great care managers working for hospitals and doctor’s offices, they have limits. Sometimes those limits are very constrictive.
For example, a hospital based care manager has very tight guidelines about how involved they can be with the decision making process. They may be able to provide a list of care communities in your area but they can’t take the time to get to know a family and help decide which one might be the best fit.
Families don’t find this out until they’re knee deep in being told all the things the free care manager CAN’T do for them.
- Provide 24hr on-call services
- Assist with transition coordination in a meaningful way
- Coordinate move management
- Assist with completing forms for various community services
- Coordinate and train private caregivers
- Facilitate family meetings and mediation
- Facilitate the decision making process
- Act as a surrogate family member when children don’t live locally
- Assist with guardianship/conservatorship process (sometimes even becoming the guardian)
- Offer long term concierge versus short term limited service
- Caregiver coaching and support
- Ongoing care monitoring and advocacy
Sure enough, some of you may have free care managers that do provide some of these services but, in Northern Colorado, this is how I differentiate myself.
If you have free geriatric care managers in your market, you better have a strategic plan in place to compete against the free or you’ll never succeed!
Here’s some ideas to help you overcome the FREE geriatric care manager
Assess the threat – through competitor analysis identify the FREE care management services. Then (this is the tricky part), try to determine in very specific terms the service they provide. Do they offer an on-call service? Will they coordinate care outside their system? Do they have a limit in terms of how long they follow a client? Use the above list to give you some ideas of what to ask.
Tip… You can try to reach out via networking events, one-on-one calls or even try mystery shopping via phone to get the answers to these questions. Try a script similar to this, “I’m trying to better understand the geriatric care management services Joe Blow Hospital offers so I can know when and how to refer. Would you be willing to answer a few questions for me?”
Determine your opportunities – by assessing the threat, you should be able to identify ways you can strategically position yourself to make it obvious you are a concierge service not a free service. For example, I have a client who’s daughter travels a lot. When she does, I hold the power-of-attorney and am available to her mother 24/7. There have been times I’ve spent the night in the ER with her facilitating decisions and holding her hand. No free care manager is going to do that!
Develop strong referral sources outside the health care system – one of my strongest referral sources is a financial advisor. Clients come to him worried that mom is going to need to move and they’re not sure what that means financially for her. They mention how frustrated and worried they are. He hands them my card and encourages them to call. Trust officers, financial advisors, and elder law attorneys can all be strong referral resources.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – I’ve had a couple of opportunities to collaborate, with the care managers at a local physician’s group. One instance was a very intense case that, quite frankly, took two of us to handle so I was able to say “is this piece something you can do within your scope or should I do it?” We were both grateful to have each other’s help! If you can find a way in to explain how your concierge care management can help with difficult cases, you may be able to snag some referrals.
Develop marketing materials that focus on the concierge – you are a fee-for-service concierge product and your marketing materials need to reflect this. Instead of listing all of the features of your geriatric care management service focus on the benefits. In other words speak to a family’s pain. An example would be the 24/7 on-call aspect. “Are you afraid to vacation for fear of what happens, if your elderly parent is hospitalized? We can cover for you!”
Guard your clients with your life when they enter the system – I educate my families about what to expect and what to say in regards to care management. They also have a stack of my business cards to hand out to let the hospital know how to contact me. One of my proudest moments was when a client handed an emergency room nurse my card and said “call my advocate, I don’t want to be in this damn hospital”. He knew what to do and what to say!
Be super confident in yourself and your practice – if you stumble over words as you explain the difference between concierge geriatric care management and the free version, you might as well hang it up. Write a script that goes something like this “we offer more of a concierge type service and scope a lot broader than a care manager that works for a large corporation. Our clients are our employers”. Make it your own but have a script that rolls right off your tongue. Practice that script until you feel super confident in explaining the difference.
You can compete against free and win but you need to get serious about how you’re going to do it!
You’ll need to be very strategic in the way you position yourself in your market. Every market is different so do your due diligence and spend time asking lots of questions of key referral sources.
When you’re asked the question, how are you different than the free community based care managers at the hospital, you better have an answer that blows them out of the water!
How about you? Are you currently practicing in a market with an abundance of free care managers? If so, leave your comment with your burning question. Better yet, share with others how you’ve learned to compete with the free and win.
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