The HME industry does amazing things for people, helping them stay in their homes and close to their families for as long as possible. Unfortunately, our industry does not do as good of a job publically touting our successes. With healthcare reform being front and center in the minds of the powers that be in Washington, our industry must get the word out that homecare is the trifecta of healthcare — it is patient preferred, has better outcomes, and is more cost effective than institutionalized care.
Unfortunately, most media references to our industry are tainted by fraud cases. These few bad apples have tarnished our potential to be the solution to healthcare reform. It is time for every single provider to toot the homecare horn and get the word out about the great things that are made possible for consumers as a result of HME.
There are many avenues available to get the word out about their efforts. Some of you may be bashful about touting what they feel are just daily acts of kindness. Well, there’s a saying out there, “If you don’t toot your own horn, someone else will use it as a spittoon.” We’ve seen that in our industry, so let’s start tooting. Here are a few suggestions:
Press Releases. When you have a special event or success story happen at your location, write a press release. A press release is typically short and to the point. Lead with the most important information first and then go into detail in the remaining paragraphs. Always end with a paragraph about your location — how long you’ve been in business, how many associates you have, what is your mission statement, etc. Distribute this press release to your local news venues (newspaper, radio, television). If you are not sure who to contact, call the station and they will give you a name. Make sure you follow-up on your news release, as this is a good way to start building relationships with the local media. The more regularly they hear from you, the more often they will think of you when a story about healthcare reform comes up and they need a comment.
Support local health organizations. Better Breathers Clubs, Muscular Dystrophy Associations, Multiple Sclerosis Associations — these disease-state organizations are wonderful causes to support. Be active in these groups by volunteering at or sponsoring their events. Becoming an ally of these organizations will get consumers and members of these organizations talking about what you do and how important you are to them. This will build your brand among your consumer audience, and it also has the potential to get your name as well as the benefits of homecare in front of the media and/or Members of Congress.
Host a product fair. Set up a product fair in a public area like your location’s parking lot. Display all of the latest technology that is available to consumers. Invite consumers, healthcare professionals, members of Congress and members of the media to this event. Have members of your staff available throughout the event to do product demonstrations. Our industry takes the amount of technology that is available to our consumers for granted. The access that is made possible by consumers via power wheelchairs, scooters, portable oxygen equipment, etc., is life altering. This is great news to consumers. By inviting a wide variety of people to this event, you can have doctors talking with consumers, or talking with members of Congress — all discussing the benefits of the home healthcare industry. Media also will notice technology trends such as HME getting smaller and lighter, making it more portable, so that the senior population is able to do what they want, when they want. That’s a story that you can sell to the media.
Visit your members of Congress in their home districts. During the August recess, members of Congress will be in their home towns for four weeks. Use this opportunity to invite your representative to your location. Have them meet with patients who are pro-homecare. Consumer testimonials are the best methods possible to demonstrate the value of homecare. Build these relationships with your Members of Congress, so they see a face when they talk about the value of homecare. Also, stay close to the Congressperson’s staff. They are just as important in getting the ear of the representative.
Clinicians summits. Host a clinician summit at your location. This may be similar to the product fair, but use it as an opportunity to share the clinical benefits of new products. Manufacturers should be able to help you produce flyers or other collateral information that would be helpful for clinician education.
Websites. Create a website for your company. Now that seniors are becoming more web savvy, investing in a website in order to showcase the cutting edge products that you offer. It is also good to put the website on your press releases and literature, so media and Members of Congress can get a snapshot of your values, mission, product line-up and more.
Participate in AAHomecare. Positive branding for our industry will be best accomplished through a collective and unified voice. One strong voice is more likely to be heard and taken seriously. AAHomecare is working with a public relations firm to create template materials like the press releases mentioned above to make it even easier for providers to get the word out about homecare. AAHomecare has also helped regional and state associations that are impacted by competitive bidding to host forums to educate key stakeholders (consumers, media, Members of Congress) about the negative impacts of NCB. Become active in AAHomecare and take advantage of the tools that they offer you to help build the brand of your business and the homecare industry.
These are cost-effective solutions for providers to generate publicity about their organization and the homecare industry. It takes the efforts of many to create awareness. We need to build the brand of the homecare industry. 2009 will continue to be a frenzy about healthcare reform, so get out of your location and start spreading the word on the trifecta of healthcare — homecare.