Advisory panel helps rehab center grow

Referral sources give input

When the staff at Company Care, an industrial rehabilitation program of Good Samaritan Health System in Kearney, NE, are considering making changes in the industrial rehab program, implementing a marketing plan, or identifying community needs, they rely on input from the facility’s community advisory committee.

The committee includes a cross section of people who may be affected in some way by the Company Care program. This includes physicians, rehab nurses based at local companies, corporate presidents, patients, family members of patients, workers compensation attorneys, case managers, insurance company representatives, and chiropractors. Usually 15 to 20 people serve on the committee at a time.

"We are open to a lot of discussion. We ask what direction we should go, how we can make their jobs easier, and even look at costs — are we competitive in the marketplace?" asks Jeff Montag, MS, CWA, CCM, industrial rehabilitation program director for Good Samaritan Health Systems.

At Company Care, the community advisory committee meets quarterly to review program elements. Some of these include referral source and target markets, program success factors, forms and form letters, new products and service lines, reports, on-site employer information, relationships with referral sources, documentation, such as initial and discharge evaluations, weekly progress notes, doctors notes, and program evaluation methods and results.

And when the committee has suggestions, the staff listen and implement them if possible.

Montag looks at the committee as a marketing tool. "[The committee members] see what we do and how we can make the program to serve them," Montag says. "It’s sort of like being a store that offers alterations for the clothing they sell. People are more likely to purchase something if they know it can be tailored to suit them."

Here are some of the changes Company Care has made as a result of the advisory committee:

Reports for referral sources.

The advisory committee believed the hospital’s patient evaluation and progress reports were too long — 25 to 30 pages. The committee members wanted the first couple of pages to get to the point. They said they preferred more charts and graphs, rather than a written summary.

With the help of the advisory board, the hospital has cut the reports down to eight or nine pages. The first two pages contain all the vital information. The last six pages are supportive data, Montag says.

"Our reports can sell our program," he says. "If they are good, these people will purchase them because they meet their needs. If they are too long and go into detail they don’t care about, they won’t."

A video introducing the industrial rehab program.

Since many patients in the program live in rural areas, it’s difficult for company representatives or other referral sources to visit Kearney to see the program firsthand.

With the help of the committee, the staff came up with a video that shows how the program works and introduces the staff. The 12-minute video was produced by a professional firm with input from the staff.

Some of the referral sources pass on the tapes to new clients so they will know what to expect when they arrive, Montag says.

A home exercise program.

Committee members expressed concern that clients who completed the program would not continue their exercises and might re-injure themselves.

They told the Company Care representatives that many workers in rural areas did not have access to a place to work out or could not afford to join a health club.

The rehab team developed a home exercise program including handouts explaining exercises appropriate to that particular client’s needs and information on health and wellness and back care. The packet was designed by Company Care’s exercise specialist with input from physical therapy and occupational therapy.

A popular component of the home exercise program is an audiotape of a morning stretching program that each client should complete.

"We give our clients an audio tape of the same stretching program they do here," Montag says. "It takes them through their familiar routines with familiar voices."

An annual conference on topics of interest.

The advisory committee is solely responsible for an annual conference for clinicians financed by the hospital. The committee chooses topics of interest to them and suggests speakers. All clinicians in the area are invited to the conference, even those from competing programs.

"People ask me why I invite my competitors, but I’m willing to share," Montag says. "They can’t duplicate what we are doing, and there is enough to go around for everyone."