How senior care facilities can pave the path beyond COVID-19

 In Caregiver, COVID-19, Leadership, Marketing, Patient Experience

Transcend recently surveyed 1,000 family caregivers across the nation to gauge how COVID-19 has affected their perceptions of senior care. The pandemic has dramatically shifted their attitudes, with 65% saying it has completely changed their opinions about the best way to care for aging seniors, and it’s become clear this impact extends well into their long-term plans for after the crisis passes.

While the data revealed numerous insights on the long-term impact of COVID-19 on overall senior care, it also surfaced some of the specific challenges that facility-based providers face. One of their key challenges will revolve around the fact that overall family preference has shifted toward in-home alternatives.

Families expressed less confidence that quality care can be provided in healthcare facilities (68% disagree or are neutral about feeling more confident on this matter) and are instead more confident about receiving quality care at home (60% agree). This shift in confidence is translating into changing intent, with respondents saying they are less likely to choose in-facility care based on what happened during the pandemic (45% to 51% are less likely or definitely will not use).

While some of the data may seem concerning, there remains a clear path forward for how facility-based providers can build on the bedrock of trust they’ve established with those in their care. In fact, those with a loved one already living in a facility were far more likely to favorably rank their confidence in facilities (67% to 76% satisfaction rate).

Addressing families’ changing expectations and building your reputation will be a marathon, not a sprint. We want to help you apply our insights in creating strategies to reframe, connect and grow with your vital audiences over the long term.

REFRAME your value, services and benefits to rebuild families’ lost trust in facilities

Families’ confidence and trust need to be restored in a facility’s ability to provide quality care while keeping residents as safe as possible. With situations and information changing so fast during the first days and weeks of COVID-19, almost everyone made – or didn’t make – some decisions that don’t look good in hindsight. Admit any mistakes and describe all corrective actions you’ve taken.

A major factor in families feeling confident is also their sense of safety and security for their loved one.

Help them feel consistently in the loop by continually updating families on your measures to minimize risk of COVID-19 and the status of cases in your facility.

Since many residents or their families choose a facility based on socialization and activities, providers also need to show how they can maintain interaction safely. Educate families about your ongoing quality care and social activities with COVID-19 precautions in place.

CONNECT to patient and family perspectives and satisfy their desire for effective communications

What came through loud and clear from the research was just how critically linked the quality of your communication is with decision makers’ perception of the overall quality of care. Respondents with loved ones in a facility were three times more likely to rank providers more favorably in metrics of care quality when they felt satisfied with the level of communication, clarity and honesty they are receiving from the provider.

Respondents are also 70% more likely to believe their loved one is getting better care in a facility if they are satisfied with access to information about the resident’s condition. Communicate frequently and consistently – to not only educate families on how you’re providing quality care overall, but specifically on how their own loved one is doing. Now is also a good time to explore new options to communicate, especially with telehealth and remote care tools, to help families regularly monitor their loved one’s condition.

As you put new procedures and practices in place, communicating frequently and consistently with your team is equally vital. Keep your staff up to date on all aspects of resident care, challenges and opportunities. Constantly seek their feedback on how to further improve.

Families are also far more likely (52% versus 29%) to believe their loved one is safer in a facility if the staff demonstrates compassion when the family can’t visit. Train your staff to demonstrate compassion and develop methods, such as video chats or window visits, to connect families with their loved one.

Many facility managers look at “operations” from the business perspective, but much of your reputation is centered squarely on human interaction. Be sure to balance your business operations with compassion and empathy from your entire team. Then reflect those qualities within your own staff and outwardly to residents and their families with every interaction.

GROW by tailoring your messages and targeting prospects more likely to choose facility-based care

Demonstrate to prospects how you’re living your brand to deliver the best care and resident experiences possible. Consider new or more robust communication methods, such as digital and social media marketing. This can include more robust “remote marketing” tools – such as video tours, online chats with your admissions team and lifestyle videos – to promote your benefits to families without visits.

Now and into the future, it will be critical to find innovative new ways to communicate and deliver value to your referral sources. You can utilize tools such as Account-Based Marketing to laser-focus relevant digital messages to your most promising referral prospects. Target referrers who typically care for higher acuity patients and educate them on how your facility and team are best suited for their needs.

In all outward communication, be authentic with your representations of life within your walls. Don’t overpromise or portray an unrealistically rosy picture of what you’re truly able to do. Consider featuring testimonials of current satisfied residents/families, since, as the research shows, the families with loved ones already in facilities have a higher perception of the quality you provide.

Discover how you can participate in defining future research initiatives by joining the new Transcend Research Consortium. Contact Stephanie Johnston to learn more.

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