Nursing Home Marketing: The Facility Down the Street May Be a Referral Pot of Gold

In the past week, I have had a unique opportunity to observe a facility with another company fall to the pressures of survey.  The facility had a rough history – staying out of compliance more than in.  A few IJ’s later, CMS has pulled the plug on their Medicare/Medicaid provider agreement.  They lost their certification.  What this means is that they have to discharge all their Medicare and Medicaid residents.  They have 30 days to do such.  They can keep their private pay residents as long as they keep their state license.  A State monitor is in the facility daily to ensure the residents are being cared for properly and the discharges are happening as ordered.

What this means to me is that there will be around 140 residents that will need a new home.  Unfortunately, the facility is about an hour away from my own.  However, I decided to pay them a visit anyway.  Knowing what survey and high pressure situations can do to nursing home staff, I decided to take them some cookies.  😀  I previously talked about marketing with cookies here and making sure that this tactic is used only a tool. 

But…bringing cookies works!  Let me tell you what happened.

When I arrived at the facility, as expected, there was a ton of activity.  I managed to catch the social worker in the hallway and quickly told him who I was and why I was there.  I asked if he had a few minutes to allow me to show him how I could assist with their many discharges.  Of course, he was too busy at the moment.  “No problem,” I said.  I tucked my business card and facility brochure into this large bag I brought in with me.  I told him I understaood how busy he was and to give me a ring when he had a chance to review my information.  I handed him the bag and left the building.  What was in this bag?  The items I mentioned as well as a sheet of laminated paper with 4 unique selling features of my facility:

1.  Number of male and female beds I had available for both ICF and skilled residents.

2.  VA Contract – I have a VA contract which is not common for many of the facilities in the area.  I could help this facility with the placement of any residents who may have veterans benefits.

3.  We love wounds!  My facility routinely accepts patients with complex wound care issues including negative pressure and IV antibiotics.  These types of residents are often more difficult to place and a facility asking for them stands out.

4.  We’ll give you your residents back when you’re ready!  This is the one that gets a lot of attention.  Why would I make this offer?  Well, for many reasons:  It’s a huge incentive for a facility in the middle of decertification to send as many residents to me knowing when they get their certification back, their residents will be waiting.  Rebuilding census will not be as hard.  Many of the families will not continue to drive for an hour and will move the resident anyway.  Some of the residents will like my facility and decide to stay anyway.  The facility I’m getting them from has already proven to have survey compliance issues and will most likely have more in the future even if they do get recertified.  It makes sense to build relationships in this industry for future business. And, it’s all revenue for me!

Also in the bag were the cookies I had bought earlier from Wal-Mart and put on a nice-looking plastic plate, wrapped with a clear decorative wrap, and tied off with a ribbon.  Now, I’m not the most creative guy and certainly don’t know how to make bows or how to make fancy goodie baskets; but anybody can do this and make it look good.

I was in the parking lot about to drive off when the social worker called me and asked me to return to the building.  He told me to come to the Admissions office.  When I arrived, I found the social worker, the admissions director, the administrator, the regional director of operations, and the regional director of clinical services.  They asked if I was the cookie man.  “Yes, I am,” I replied.  “They said that no one else (out of the multiple facilities that had representatives there) had brought them anything to eat.  For that reason, they allowed me to stay in the office with them as we discussed the unique selling features I had listed and dropped in the bag.  Every other facility’s rep had landed next door in the conference room waiting to be allowed to look at referrals.

I went back the next 2 days to review the charts and see the potential referrals.  I made sure that I brought the facility’s team snacks each morning.  All-in-all, I received 50 referrals from this building in 2 and 1/2 days.  Not too shabby!  Not all wanted to go an hour away and not all did I accept for admission to my facility.  But, it was definitely worth the effort and it reinforced the point that you should use the tools you have available when marketing to stand out.  You never know where it will get you!

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