In today’s environment of high consumer expectations coupled with the overwhelming complexity of navigating our country’s healthcare system, hospices have an opportunity to provide guidance and compassion at the initial point of contact via the intake process. The intake process provides invaluable support to the patient or family member while differentiating the organization in the mind of the prospective family.
Hospices that approach the intake process from a place of service will elevate the organization’s reputation and performance by building rapport with the family member and taking a consultative approach that helps move the patient through to the next steps. Here are three ways you can elevate your hospice’s reputation with a service focused intake process.
1. Understand and Address the Barriers
It’s important to understand the barriers that the family may have. There’s almost always a hard line, but you can’t understand the barriers until you understand the full scope of what the patient has going on. Financial barriers. Fear of dying alone. “Giving up” concerns. These are all common causes for distress at the end of life and are valid. The intake position should be sympathetic to these barriers to quickly build rapport and trust with the prospective patient and/or family. This allows hospices to instill confidence with the patient and family regarding their decision to choose hospice care.
Every patient and family think their situations are unique to them, but intake positions know that there is a lot of common ground. These are all opportunities that the intake coordinator must be familiar with and then quickly be able to present options for care.
Soft skills for an intake coordinator include compassion, active listening, dialogue, effective communication, mirroring back what you’re hearing, and validation, because callers are often full of emotions before they pick up the phone and even call you. The patient or their family on the other end of the phone may already be grieving. It’s important for the intake staff to understand how to navigate those feelings should they arise.
2. Compassion First
An essential component of the intake role is to capture the data of the patient and enter it into the electronic health records system. However, if an intake professional lead with this, chances are it could feel alienating to the caller. An example of this would be asking what kind of insurance they have. Sometimes callers just want to know what hospice care might look like for the patient and don’t want to feel pressured or scared because of things like insurance or doctor referrals. If the interest is in the patient and the caller is met with compassion, they will feel welcomed and will often share more details that will allow you to guide the discussion and explain in detail how your hospice can help.
The difference between the data-focused intake professional and the patient-focused intake professional is fundamental to making a positive first impression and ultimately serving more patients. If intake professionals don’t approach the conversation from a service first perspective, you risk losing opportunities to serve your market. If the call feels too transactional, the callers may feel compelled to “shop around.” Like with every industry that offers a service, putting your client, in this case the patient and their family, at the center, will set your organization up for success.
3. Provide Outstanding Service to Referrals
Referrals are key to building patient census. While you can share marketing literature and great quality scores with a referral source, what matters most is building relationships and providing responsive communication. Intake professionals frequently field calls from referral partners and must also be able to address their needs in a way that builds rapport. One way to build relationships with referral partners is to regularly share updates or stories about the patient’s journey while under your hospice care. While providers are all under pressure and stress, at the end of the day, we are all human. And clinicians come into these roles because they are compassionate. By sharing stories, you cultivate connection and reinforce the mission of your hospice.
“Being on the intake team can be a very ‘hot seat’ position,” Della Miller, Vice President of Referral Services at Carrefour Associates and Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care told us. “You’re the bridge between emotionally charged callers and patients, and very stressed-out care teams. But it also can be extremely rewarding as people recognize your care and compassion in a difficult time,” she said.
Hospice intake teams play a central role to serving patients and families, referral partners, and internal care teams. While capturing data and directing the flow of information is an essential part of the intake process, knowing how to navigate the conversation, identify barriers, and respond with compassion while also navigating the EHR system, is a dynamic flow that takes skill, resilience and dedication. By managing the intake process from the perspective of providing outstanding customer service, your hospice will see a positive impact on referral volume and conversions, raising the bar on performance.
Curantis Solutions understands the dynamic flow of hospice intake and worked directly with hospices to design a workflow that supports gathering key information with ease.