Marketing, outcomes analysis keys to success

Payers demanding data from outpatient providers

With Medicare reimbursement taking a nosedive, rehab providers must have a strategy for developing new business. That’s where marketing comes in.

"Marketing got a bad name in the 1980s when it meant advertising agencies got a lot of money," says Nancy J. Beckley, MS, MBA, president of Bloomingdale Consulting Group, a rehab consulting firm in Valrico, FL. "Providers thought if they paid for advertising, they’d get a lot of business."

But now, marketing is an essential part of business development, and providers must have a business development plan to survive, Beckley says. Your own outcomes data are your best marketing tools, she maintains. If you’re an outpatient provider and aren’t already doing it, start compiling data on your outcomes.

In the inpatient setting, most providers collect outpatient data based on the Functional Indepen dence Measure (FIM, administered by Uniform Data Services for Medical Rehabilitation in Buf falo, NY) that collects and reports functional gain.

However, there are no generic, universal outcomes measures available for outpatient programs, at least in part because the types of patients and the patient mix among facilities are so varied. For example, some facilities deal primarily with sports injuries and treat only one body part, such as a neck or knee, at a time. Others may focus on stroke patients with multiple physical and cognitive deficits.

Even though there isn’t a universally defined set of outcomes measures available, your facility can track its outpatient outcomes and show pro viders your treatment makes a difference. (For details on how one provider tracks outcomes for its outpatient programs, see Rehabilitation Outcomes Review, p. 151.)

For example, if your population is largely orthopedic, you can choose from a number of orthopedic outcomes measures available, most of which deal with one body part or another. Or, if you have a pain clinic, you can track the number of patients who report that their pain was less when they finished the program than when they started. Include patient satisfaction measures in the data you give to payers.

If most of your patients are workers’ compensation patients, track how many in each diagnosis return to work in what length of time. Develop a meaningful outcomes analysis you can use when talking to managed care companies or other referral sources, she suggests. "The insurance company doesn’t care what happened 10 years ago or even what happened last week in another city. They want to know what you can do for them today."

Take your own data, and let those data tell the story of what your facility can do for patients, Beckley advises.

[Editor’s note: For more on outpatient outcomes measures, see: Rehab Continuum Report, July 1998, p. 85, and March 1997, p. 35. For an overview of widely used outpatient outcomes measures, see Hospital Rehab (now Rehab Continuum Report), September 1994, p. 119.]