Overcoming patient objections to care

 In Community Education, Marketing

The data is pretty brutal when it comes to quantifying missed opportunities for providing home-based care to appropriate patients.

According to CMS, about 40% of patients discharged from hospitals who are approved for home health don’t sign on for it. Hospice utilization nationwide remains below 50% … and more than 40% of patients receive hospice care for 14 days or less.

What is stopping patients from receiving the care they need and should embrace? And, what can you do to overcome those objections and other obstacles?

Apply marketing best practices to educate and correct misperceptions

Much of the resistance to home-based care is due to woefully inaccurate perceptions and downright myths about home health and hospice. You’ve likely heard these and other falsehoods from many a patient and family:

  • “My family can provide the care I need.”
  • “The people who come in are just there to help with things like giving a bath or lending a hand with household chores.” (Not the medical and clinical expertise you provide.)
  • “Hospice means I’m giving up … and will make me die sooner.”
  • “If the doctor or hospital really wants me to have more care at home, they’ll make all the arrangements.”

Your agency can apply best practices of marketing to educate families about the many advantages you provide – as well as correcting misperceptions of what you aren’t.

It’s smart to start with both qualitative and quantitative research to gauge what attributes of your care are most important to patients and families in your community. Insights from the research will help you express the benefits of what families value in language that reflects their perspective (using down-to-earth language instead of clinical speak).

After you craft meaningful messages to patients and families based on what they value most, target them through a savvy media mix. Depending on your market, consider using mass media such as TV, radio and print (if your community still has newspapers or local magazines older adults read) to magnify awareness of your brand and its benefits. Use digital and social media to pinpoint messages to families based on their online behavior so they see content highly relevant to their needs … complete with click-throughs to drive audiences to deeper content on your website.

Appeal to family caregivers

Yes, I realize the headline of this blog post is “Overcoming patient objections…” But Transcend has learned during our 20 years of experience that family caregivers have powerful influence on patient decisions. And, family caregivers often will raise their hands for support sooner than when they are looking solely at enrolling their loved one in your care.

Although a labor of love, caregiving for a loved one at home is exhausting – physically and emotionally. Many caregivers are thrust suddenly into the task and feel inadequate for the job. Transcend’s research with more than 20,000 family healthcare decision makers shows while comfort of the patient is the caregiver’s top priority, they also highly value services such as 24/7 support, caregiver training and emotional counseling, which benefit them directly.

So make sure your messaging is clear about caring for the caregiver as well as their loved one. Transcend’s clients who have followed this strategy have experienced significant increases in census, LOS and revenue due to earlier engagement with patients through their family caregivers.

Distinguish your brand from competitors

You not only want patients and families to choose the care they need, you want them to choose your care. And your prospects are likely unaware or confused about the choice of providers available.

Want proof? In our 20,000+ surveys with family healthcare decision makers, it’s common that fewer than 10% of participants can correctly cite the brand name of a hospice provider in their community using unaided recall (i.e., asking the open-ended question, “What organizations provide hospice care in your community?”) Fewer than 40% recognize hospice brand names when a list of providers is read to them, which means it’s also true that more than half admit they don’t know the names of any hospice organizations. (Focus group participants often say that hospice is provided by the government, patients go the “chapter” in their county, and there’s no choice of providers – “Hospice is hospice.”)

On top of these factors, competing home health and hospice providers can have brand names, brand colors and logos (doves, hearts, butterflies and hands are very popular!) that look a lot alike. No wonder families – and some referrers for that matter – can be confused about their options or be sure they’re choosing the intended provider.

So your marketing content must relentlessly feature why you’re different and better than competitors, all while consistently hammering home your exact brand name.

Do you know your organization’s unique value proposition? What can you point to specifically as proof points that your care is the best option for patients and families? How can you frame those distinctive values from the perspective of what’s important to your audiences?

The more you can do to differentiate your brand attributes from the competition, position your offerings to benefit both patients and family caregivers, and use marketing best practices to target those informative messages, the more you will overcome objections to your care and increase the likelihood of becoming your community’s preferred provider.

Need more information or help with any of the topics reviewed in this blog post? Email me at stan@transcend-strategy.com.

 

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