The Experience is the Marketing

Beware of Companies That Over Promise and Under Deliver

Transparency is the buzz word in healthcare these days. You need to own it. Match the delivery of care to your brand promise. If you don't beware of the consequences. People will find out and spread negative word of mouth. Embrace transparency.

There are a lot of unsavory players in the health care field. And increasing transparency in the industry is allowing consumers to vet providers thoroughly before making a choice for mom and dad. One point of evaluation can come by paying attention to what providers have to say in their marketing and comparing closely to how the experience matches up. See the Experience of Care IS the marketing. If they do not match, move on and consider others.

Lesson to providers - make sure they match.

Case in point. According to the Pennsylvania Record, a Philadelphia woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against a retirement home, saying the employees neglected to properly care for bed sores that developed on her back while she was a patient.

Lois Johnson-Hamerman and her husband, Conrad, claim that the Philadelphia-based Watermark at Logan Square retirement community and its parent company The Freshwater Group, headquartered in Arizona, failed to employ and train employees that could effectively monitor and treat her injuries, which worsened over the two months she was their patient.

The plaintiffs accuse Watermark and its parent company of promoting itself as a facility offering skilled nursing and total health care akin to a hospital and failing to provide those services. The claim says that the companies knowingly understaffed the nursing home in order to maximize profits, endangering the patients residing there.

The companies are also accused of intentionally increasing the number of sick, elderly and frail patients with greater health problems in order to increase their reimbursements.

As we have stated in numerous articles the experience of care is the marketing for the organization. The actual experience of care must match the brand promise, the message that you broadcast to your prospective clients.

If it does not then negative word of mouth will spread about your facility.

Whether the allegations are true or not, the damage is already done. And we know there is a slippery slope in the assisted living industry. As brought to light in the Frontline Special, assisted living is less regulated than nursing homes. Sometimes higher acuity patients are taken in. Perhaps at first the facility can take care of them. But as their condition worsens, it becomes clear they need the next level of care. Sometimes facilities are reluctant to give up that resident, partly because they have become attached to them and partly because they will miss the revenue associated with their care.

The quantity of incidents reported on the Frontline special at the then largest AL provider (now part of Brookdale) might suggest that there is a culture that places more emphasis on money than people.

But that is a blanket statement and they are never very accurate. Yet, the tone of the culture is the leading edge for the care that follows.

I have reported on companies that I know get it. And it is all about culture.

Transparency is all the buzz in the hospital sector and by hook, crook or regulation, whether regulated or not, you need to own transparency.

I am sure you have lost count of the number of sites that rate facilities and progressive companies like Silver Living are upping the ante. Companies that sign on with them embrace a level of transparency until now unseen in the arena.

People will find things out! And if you have the wrong type of culture, employees will leak things out.

SNF and AL clients hear me harp non-stop on this point. The experience of care is the marketing. Your front line staff is the marketing department. You must make that connection in the organization to see how this all works together.

And speaking now as one human being to another, I am a baby boomer and I want to and am preparing to age in place.

From the house retrofit to the technology I need, my wife and I are planning now. Talk privately to any ED whether in a SNF or AL and they will tell you they want to do the same - age in place. No one wants what you offer and in time no one will. The implication is that you need to take a serious look at your business model.

And on an individual level, it means preparing for aging sooner in life - physically, financially, emotionally. I call it educated aging. It is about aging with a quality of life not a crisis at the end of life. This entails a huge amount of self-responsibility in a culture where we have become totally dependent on the healthcare system and the expectation that we can go to pot because there will be a pill, implant, or procedure to fix everything. Come on. Suck it up cupcake.

Let's take a breath. I do not think it can be business as usual in AL. The damage has been done whether through this lawsuit or documentaries such as the one on Frontline. So move on from here. Create the best experiences you can and then tell your story. Match the delivery of care to the brand promise.