Is Your Agency Ready for the Big Changes to the Hospice Survey?
If you’re a hospice provider, you’re bound to be aware of the extensive changes CMS published in late January regarding their hospice survey and hospice surveyor training for State Agency and Accrediting Organization personnel.
The 196-page document includes more than 70 pages of changes and new details. Part of the introduction states:
To promote efficiency and effectiveness in the hospice survey process and identify low quality-of-care deficiencies, CMS has modified the hospice survey protocol to refine the focus on quality of care.
The survey process considers all aspects of care delivery and the function of hospice providers in providing care that maximizes quality of life for hospice patients and their families.”
Among the many revisions, there are new directives for surveyors labeled “Assembling Background Information” which begins: “In preparation for the survey/resurvey, review documents of record including … complaint investigations, media reports about the facility, and other publicly available information about the facility (e.g., the hospice’s website; CMS Care Compare – Hospice; information from the Quality, Safety and Oversight Reports [QCOR]).” (Bold font added by me for emphasis.)
These directives point to a whole new level of scrutiny for providers. And by CMS’ own description, they’re guiding surveyors to sources that may “identify quality-of-care deficiencies.” In other words, what information is publicly available that will highlight trouble spots for surveyors to prioritize?
Sure, Hospice Compare – and now Care Compare – have been around for years. Yet these new directives are encouraging review of a wider scope of materials before the survey.
While the thought of being under a more powerful microscope can be unsettling, this situation actually creates new opportunities for your agency to shine in the brighter spotlight.
Actions you can take to improve your public image and reputation.
Following the guidelines stated in the new directives, let’s look at three common sources of public information where you can feature your quality performance and successes.
Restructure content on your website. Most hospice websites could use a significant renovation. Often, agencies use their homepage to highlight their history of service in the community, upcoming events and ways to make donations. Instead, look at ways to feature the quality of your care, front and center. Are your Hospice Compare scores better than the state and/or national average? Promote that on your homepage. Do you have glowing testimonials from families or positive comments on your social media posts regarding your team and your expert care? Showcase a few. Make it easy for surveyors and families alike to find the positive differentiators about your agency. Of course, ratings and comments can change. But if you have a good content management system for your website, you also can adjust your messages instantly.
Leverage social media for positive impressions. What’s your strategy for social media content? Agencies typically use Facebook and other platforms to highlight their team and their events. However, best practices for social media have long touted an 80/20 rule – 20 percent of content should be about “you” and 80 percent should be content that puts the interests of your audiences first. If you haven’t already done so, develop a year-round social media strategy and plan to promote stories of how you’ve helped patients and families, including their testimonials. Post family caregiver training tips. Highlight positive comments on your social media threads that provide endorsements of your care from third-party sources. Also, set aside a small budget to boost appropriate organic posts or turn the best messages into paid Facebook ads targeting your community.
Develop a robust public relations strategy. Again, a lot of hospice agencies historically have used public relations primarily to promote special events, like fundraisers or veterans pinning ceremonies. Nothing wrong with that – yet your PR strategy should include many other opportunities to promote the positive aspects of your organization. Craft a more robust public relations plan to continuously feed the media. By doing so, you may also become the media’s local go-to resource for expertise on end-of-life care. Consider different categories of stories. If you receive excellent ratings or certifications – or if your Care Compare scores top national and state averages – prepare press releases that not only share those ratings, but describe what those scores mean for your patients and their families. If staff members receive new certifications in hospice care, promote the expertise present on your team. Submit feature articles putting patients in the spotlight and what your agency did to make their final months more meaningful. Publications, especially hometown newspapers (even if they’re now all-digital), often are looking for heartwarming human interest stories. The more positive reports you put out into the media, the more likely surveyors are to see them when checking for background information.
I realize many hospice agencies – especially smaller and midsize ones – may not have a full-time staff person devoted to the duties required to manage website and media content on the scale this article is suggesting. Transcend may be able to help. For the past 20-plus years, we have helped providers strengthen their brands to increase their website traffic and engagement exponentially … much of it driven by smart social media and digital marketing strategies.
Why not get ahead of the curve on the new CMS survey recommendations? In fact, for any of your audiences, actively managing your public reputation and putting your best foot forward will serve your agency well. Email me at [email protected] to discuss how Transcend can assist you in these important endeavors.