Polishing your image: A little goes a long way

Become the star of the private duty show

Carol Conrad and Chris Attaya, senior managers at Simione Central Consulting in Westboro, MA, have some suggestions for giving your business a little star-shine.

"You can start by looking at your marketing materials, and then develop your collateral to present a certain image. It’s the difference between desktopping an advertising flyer yourself and having it done professionally. The image you want to project to the public is that you have a good orientation for your qualified, well-supervised staff, and your agency is bonded and insured," Conrad says.

And if your employees will provide personal care on a private basis, they need to go through a training program similar to a Medicare-certified home health aide program, and that needs to be in your marketing information. You want to look as professional and be as well-based on the demographics you are seeking to capture as possible."

Medicare-certified part gets most business

Conrad says her experience has been that the Medicare-certified part of the home care business gets most of the attention, and the private duty is not seen as a very star-quality program. "The focus for home health services has been providing personal care. Doing the laundry and dishes and cooking the meals has not been viewed as important because Medicare won’t pay for it. The carryover attitude from certified caregiving has been to sort of denigrate those services."

Attaya agrees. "In the past, nobody gave a lot of attention to the private duty sector. It was a separate arm or division within a larger, more intensive Medicare-certified company. What we’re really trying to say is that you have to give private duty the attention it needs in order to make it profitable, and look at it from a business model. Start using your business models of break-even’ and sensitivity analysis,’ as well as looking at marketing and recruitment," he advises.

"We tell our clients who are working on developing an image to look closely at their competitors and identify where they are presenting themselves," Attaya says. "Where are they falling down? What can you show the market that you can do that would be better or different than your competitors? You have to move beyond the traditional private duty you see out there, maybe offering chauffeuring services that other agencies don’t, or home maintenance."

Better? Cheaper?

Conrad concurs that home maintenance is a good marketing tool. "You can call it heavy housework and offer packages for it in your marketing. For example, a package might offer a worker to rake leaves for four hours or put up storm windows. You might not have packaged it perfectly, but you can indicate that your packaging is flexible by having an hourly rate for these kinds of services. The point is, you are telling the market that you can support the services it wants."

"When you are doing a competitive analysis and finding out what’s available in the market and what others are charging for it, ask yourself how you can do it better, or cheaper. Can you find a way to get to that market so it would then choose you? You need to understand the economics of your ability to provide services at a profit and really challenge yourself around that," Attaya says.

• Carol Conrad, BSN, RN, MEd, Senior Manager, and Chris Attaya, MBA, FHFMA, Senior Manager, Simione Central Consulting, 1700 W. Park Drive, Suite 300, Westboro, MA 01581. Telephone: (800) 653-4043. FAX: (508) 870-5587. E-mail: simcenwest@aol.com.