Monthly Archives: March 2016

Volunteer Week: Honor those who help or share your own time and talent

National Volunteer Week recognizes the hard work of those people who give their time and talents to improve their communities and the entire nation. This year’s celebration, which seeks to encourage more people to engage in their communities, is April 10-16.

Make the commitment to recognize the volunteers that help your agency run smoothly and those employees who give of themselves to make your community a better place. It’s an incredible civic marketing opportunity.

  • Visit the Points of Light Corporate Institute webpage to get great information about beginning a company volunteer program. The Points of Light website also has a wealth of ideas about how to organize activities for your agency.
  • Take the time to participate in the local branch of Meals on Wheels or your community food bank. These programs play an important role in reducing hunger among seniors and are a remarkable way to allow your agency to directly improve the lives of your community’s seniors. Not only should employees be encouraged to participate, but you should seek to sponsor one of the organization’s fundraisers (don’t forget your agency’s branding when you participate).
  • Contact your local Senior Corps office to find seniors who are volunteers and advocates for your community, or those residents who are passionate about helping seniors. Take out an ad in your local newspaper to recognize these awesome volunteers. Find Senior Corps contacts here.
  • Find out which employees at your agency take the time and initiative to volunteer in the community on their own. Highlight their efforts with special recognition. Don’t forget to laud them in your agency newsletter and on your website. Contact TAG Partners at 866-232-6477 to learn about branded promotional items you can use to express your thanks.
  • Contact your local community leaders and let them know your agency wants to do its part to improve the community you share. Agencies that are associated with well-respected local leaders can attract interest from other leaders and from potential partners.

Home health agencies: Your CMS star rating is a great marketing tool

Competition is fierce in the home health care industry, and savvy consumers have more information than ever to help them decide which provider will be the best for their family. Are you doing all you can to help ensure patients and their physicians have easy access to your key outcomes scores to help nudge them along the way?

Conveying this information is easier than ever now that CMS has released two different star ratings to allow an at-a-glance look at what may some of the most credible data about your company.

Although the Quality of Patient Care Star Rating and the Home Health Patient Experience of Care Star Rating (HHCAHPS Survey star rating) are easily accessible on Medicare’s Home Health Compare webpage, patients and physicians often aren’t digging into the data to make their home health provider decisions.

Here are some ways you can call attention to your agency using your star ratings.

  • A good star rating is worth sharing. If you haven’t already released a press release to tout your 4-star or 5-star rating, get ready to brag a little about your recognition with the next release of scores. Send a press release out to your community’s media out lets and email an announcement to your community partners. Doing well is a big deal; make sure they know it.
  • Use your outcomes scores and star ratings to show referral sources just how much more effective you are than your competitors at caring for people living with certain conditions. TAG Partners has created a line of Outcomes Brochures for Physicians that list the services you offer for a specific condition and your patient outcome scores compared to state and/or national averages in graph form. TAG also has created logos for the CMS star ratings and can feature them prominently on the brochures.
  • Put your star rating on all your collateral materials and communications materials so the recipients know at a glance that you have been rated highly. The logos created by TAG Partners for the outcomes brochures listed above also can be applied to any of the other marketing and operations materials we provide.
  • Don’t forget your online presence. Include your star ratings on your website home page or about us page. Most consumers start their search for a home health agency online — give them as much easily digestible information as you can.
  • When your agency does earn excellent star ratings and positive outcomes scores, don’t forget to recognize the people who make it all possible: your staff. Send out a congratulatory email announcement thanking them for their hard work. If you can, schedule a small office party or feature the announcement prominently in your internal newsletter.

Medication safety matters

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse drug events cause more than 700,000 visits to the emergency room every year, and almost 120,000 hospitalizations. Older adults are twice as likely to visit the emergency room for an adverse drug event and almost seven times more likely to require hospitalization.

Among seniors, the danger of misusing a medication is heightened for a number of reasons:

  • Seniors take more medicines (both prescription and non-prescription) for a variety of ailments as they age
  • Seniors’ bodies begin processing some medications differently
  • Some may have memory or vision problems
  • Some get prescriptions from more than one doctor or fill them at more than one pharmacy
  • Financial issues may prevent the filling of some prescriptions

As health care professionals who specialize in caring for this group, we must take the lead in ensuring our elders don’t fall victim to preventable errors. Highlight this effort during Medication Safety Week, held each year on April 1–7.

  • Partner with a local pharmacist and host an informational session on medication safety basics for the elderly at a local senior center. Hand out copies of the My Medicine List developed by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists and the ASHP Foundation. For those who prefer a more technological solution, show them how to use the American Medical Association’s My Medications app.
  • Call on your physician referral sources and ask about their patients who recently experienced a change in medication or who fail to take their medications as prescribed. Show these physicians how you work to increase the patient’s adherence to medication regimens, as well as how you can help with fall prevention for those patients taking medication that may cause drowsiness.
  • Visit an assisted living facility and host a short workshop on nonprescription medications. Talk about the importance of telling doctors/pharmacists about these drugs, and about how to read the “Drug Facts” label on each nonprescription product to avoid taking multiple products with the same active ingredient or medications that may interact with one another. Hand out Medication Safety flyers with your agency’s information to all attendees. Or use a ready-made community class on Understanding Medications that a non-clinician can present.
  • Ask your local library whether you can decorate a bulletin board there for Medication Safety Week. Include lots of helpful information and be sure to include your agency’s contact information as a source for more information on medication safety.
  • Create a tip sheet for caregivers on proper medication safety for older adults. Be sure the caregiver of every client gets one.
  • Contact your local newspaper or television news station and ask to talk with a reporter about medication safety among the elderly. Did you know that people over age 65 represent 14 percent of the U.S. population but consume more than a third of all prescription medications? Those figures will only grow as the nation’s Baby Boomers continue to age. Offer your professional insight into this issue, as well as access to a clinician at your agency and a patient who has agreed to speak with the media.

Build up your outreach efforts this Minority Health Month

Although we should strive for health equality all year long, April is Minority Health Month and it’s a time when we should pay special attention to our efforts at promoting access to health care resources for all ethnic and racial groups.

Not only will it improve the health of these groups, which studies show have more difficulty accessing health care, but these special efforts can improve your patient census as more members of minority groups connect with you, the agency that took the time to reach out to them.

  • Start by visiting the website of the Office of Minority Health. Take the time to learn about health equity and minority outreach. Commit to reaching a broader section of your community. You can find great tool kits on the issue here and here.
  • Reach out and partner with groups that serve your community’s minority markets. These include community health centers, charitable organizations, chambers of commerce, church groups, and groups that work with migrant populations. Offer to help educate the groups they serve about various health issues that impact them.
  • Build your agency’s library of Spanish-language educational materials. Start by visiting the National Network of Libraries of Medicine for a varied selection of health topics in Spanish. You can also find Spanish materials personalized to your agency, including brochures, health logs and helpful zone flyers. Arrange to have some of your materials displayed at health clinics that serve large Hispanic populations.
  • Get involved in Kidney Sundays, an effort of the National Kidney Disease Education Program. Kidney Sundays aims to educate the attendees of primarily African American churches about kidney disease. After all, although African Americans make up only about 13 percent of the population, about 32 percent of U.S. cases of kidney failure are in African Americans. Download a free Kidney Sundays toolkit and then contact local African American churches to discuss ways you can help educate their congregations about the disease. Distribute agency flyers on kidney disease to those you encounter at your Kidney Sundays event.
  • Contact minority patients you have served and their families. Ask them to provide testimonials about the care they received from your agency. Use these testimonials in your marketing materials and future promotions to highlight your agency’s inclusiveness.
  • Recognize the health disparities in heart disease and then take action. A toolkit to begin a heart health program can be found at the website of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Don’t forget to stock up on your agency’s heart disease-related brochures to aid in your outreach efforts.