Hunger Games strategy a win for home health care

Did you really just see Katniss Eberdeen in a Dodge truck commercial?

You may think you’re hallucinating from staring too long at the detailed new G Codes for home health and hospice agencies, the ones taking effect Jan. 1 as part of the latest change request from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

But you’re not confused, at least not about Katniss and Dodge. (It would be highly unusual if you weren’t at least a little confused about the G codes.)

A “Hunger Games” lookalike is splashed all over television, radio, digital and social media advertisements this week in an unlikely marketing alliance with Fiat Dodge Chrysler Automobiles.

It’s part of a huge, cross-industry promotion for the release of “Mockingjay – Part 2,” opening in movie theaters this Friday, Nov. 20. Fiat Dodge Chrysler is taking full advantage of the surrounding hype to join forces in an expensive advertising campaign.

What can Katniss joining forces with Dodge teach the home health care industry?

The creative alliance between auto manufacturer and moviemaker is representative of a strong new partnership trend across many sectors of today’s marketplace, in team efforts designed to make sure the odds of success are a bit more favorable for all.

It’s a trend home health care can’t afford to overlook, because there can be real, bottom-line value in this type of strategic alliance.

In fact, strategic partnerships may well be the best route to profitability as home health evolves, particularly for smaller agencies feeling overwhelmed by the need to stay abreast of regulatory change, control risk and maintain solvency, all without sacrificing focus on quality patient care and outcomes. From community resource sharing to outsourcing traditional staff responsibilities such as coding and chart review, teamwork can play an integral role in helping home health and hospice agencies overcome today’s complex challenges.

John Hammergren, chairman and CEO of McKesson, the largest health-care services firm in the U.S., is among the health industry voices endorsing creative solutions, including strategic partnerships, in today’s fluid health services market.

“Given the unprecedented level of change gripping the health care industry, large and small health care organizations will need to depend on innovative, creative thinking and sometimes each other to successfully navigate the evolving marketplace,” Hammergren wrote in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review.

Health care strategist and author Stephen Tweed, CEO of Leading Home Care, agrees. Last spring, Tweed identified “Community Partnerships” as one of the Top 10 Trends in Home Health Care in America for 2015, on his Home Health Care Today blog, saying many home care agencies are partnering with providers and non-provider organizations to greatly improve health outcomes.

Communities may offer an abundance of helpful resources, from disease-specific program development assistance available through local branches of large nationwide advocacy groups such as The National Cancer Society or The American Heart Association to support groups for caregivers. Even rural agencies may be able to make use of resources available through the largest advocacy groups.

Compliance is one of the areas most conducive to partnerships adding bottom-line value to home health agencies. 

In a challenging and complex marketplace, where penalties can prove costly, the right alliance can help an agency streamline operations and shore up weaknesses. Risk management is becoming more crucial to a small agency’s viability than ever before, with HHBPP threatening penalties as great as 5 to 8 percent for agencies in some states. Teaming up with a mentor or coach for assessment and training may be an agency’s best hope for dealing with the regulatory burden.

Strategic partnerships aren’t exactly a new business concept. Wal-mart shares its retail umbrella with opticians, dry cleaners, nail salons and a host of other small businesses and Starbucks has a recognizable presence in many Target locations around the country. But partnerships are becoming more creative, as competitors team up, alliances bridge industries and industry leaders take fledgling businesses under their wings.

Some of the most successful strategic alliances in recent years have emerged from the social media world, where innovative thinking is less hindered by conventional business practices. In 2011, emerging digital streaming music service Spotify successfully piggybacked with media giant Facebook, getting a jump start on its way to today’s 75-million user base. Just last week, Twitter teamed with CBS and the Des Moines Register for live interaction during the Democratic Presidential Debate.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood takes center stage in perfecting the art of the strategic alliance. In preparation for the Dec. 18 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Lucasfilm has announced plans to partner with Cover Girl, Max Factor, Verizon, General Mills and a long list of other industry leaders.

The common element in each of those big name, headline-grabbing partnerships directly applies to home health agencies. In each case, the successful alliance came about because one business was willing to reach out to another, explore options and seek help.

When is the last time your agency looked beyond itself for alliances to help achieve business goals and become more successful? 

If you’re not befitting from strategic partnerships, including outsourcing some operational functions, it’s definitely worth the time to begin brainstorming ways your company can benefit.

Contact The American Heart Association about developing a congestive heart failure program together.
Reach out to a community bank about sponsoring a charitable event such as a 10-K run that will help position your company’s brand as an active community participant.
Find the right mentor to provide the additional training and risk assessment your agency needs to respond to new regulatory changes.

At Home Health Solutions LLC, we work with agencies large and small to identify weaknesses and develop corrective action, put in place risk management practices and set achievable goals. We understand that each agency is unique, and customize our services accordingly. The measurable ROI for clients in partnership with us directly positions agencies for efficiency, profitability and a more successful future.

OUR SUCCESS STRATEGIES

As you consider the possibilities for your agency, here are four Partnership Success Strategies worth noting. And, in true “Hunger Games” spirit, they just may help you put the odds “ever in your favor.”

1. Think outside of the box. Fresh perspectives can challenge status quo thinking and yield impressive results for your business. Take your cue from some of the biggest players in other industries, and their innovative, game-changing alliances.

“At FCA, we do not like to go traditional,” Oliver Francois, Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s chief global marketing officer, said in announcing his company’s partnership with a book and movie franchise. “Our collaboration with ‘The Hunger Games’ and Lionsgate is a great example of what can be done that’s unexpected.”

2. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help. Mentoring relationships are some of the most rewarding of all partnerships in the home health field. McKesson CEO John Hammergren has a term for alliances between large and small companies. He calls them “David-and-Goliath Partnerships.”

“There are upsides and downsides for both organizations when large and small come together,” he writes for The Harvard Business Journal. “Economic pressures mean companies need to be efficient and operating at scale. Goliaths can bring efficiency and scale to the table for smaller organizations.”

The right mentor can be the Goliath your company needs to overcome particular challenges and become more successful.

3. Little changes can reap big rewards.

Innovative thinking doesn’t always equate to grand scale operations between big players. Sometimes a positive change can be as simple as rethinking routine operations. Don’t discount the value of smaller, interim measures such as outsourcing your company’s coding during particularly hectic times. The stressful holiday season, a maternity leave or extended illness of a staff member can negatively affect your bottom line due to errors. It can be much more cost effective to outsource tasks on a short-term basis than to deal with the repercussions from errors made by a harried, overburdened office staff.

4. Keep in mind, even the big guys fail. Not every creative approach will succeed. Try not to be discouraged by a rejection from another business you may have approached with an idea for a helpful partnership, or the failure of an innovative strategy you implemented at your agency to improve operations. If it isn’t working, try something else. Better yet, consult a professional with expertise in that area for how to achieve your goals.

In 2004, Pepsi partnered with Apple for a campaign to give away 100 million free songs on iTunes, but months of delays hindered the project and actual song redemptions fell millions short of projections.
Neither Pepsi nor Apple disappeared after that grand scale failure — and neither will you, if a few of your big ideas don’t pan out, or your agency faces challenges that seem insurmountable.
Keep trying, keep brainstorming, and always be willing to ask for help.

Home Health Solutions LLC has one of the best teams in the industry, and we are ready when you are to partner for success.

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