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Negotiating with a hospital: Preparing the pitch

February 20, 2013
by Teresa Chase
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Part one of a three-part series

Hospitals everywhere need you (even though they may not fully understand you).

But make no mistake: they do need you. As their revenues get squeezed, hospitals’ post-acute partners are more important than ever in the fight against unnecessary readmissions to protect their top line.

And let’s face it—you need them, too. If you depend on Medicare revenue today (and increasingly Medicaid in the future), you must collaborate with your hospitals to attack this problem—or watch census dry up.

Hospitals are shopping markets for post-acute providers with the most attractive outcomes. Data, collaborations and new processes to achieve results are taking center stage.On the flip side, you want hospitals to understand that you’re breaking down silos to help them better understand the skilled nursing landscape, while also enabling you to better solve their problems.

On the surface, it sounds easy: win them over and you’ll win census. But in reality, it’s much more complicated than that. Questions like, “Who leads this dance?” “What’s our story?” and “How do we craft a great pitch?” comes to your mind.

In this first of three articles, we’ll take a step-by-step approach to preparing for meetings with hospital CFOs, along with three free resources to help get you to the table with confidence—and the right negotiating posture.

STEP 1: BE PROACTIVE

It’s true, LTC providers took some of the brunt for rehospitalizations being so high, and some hospitals are taking a tougher stand going into discussions with providers.

For many, it’s like being called to the principal’s office. No one wants to go into a negotiation in that kind of an awkward, negative position. It’s important, when forging relationships with hospitals, to head them off from summoning you to their meetings.

Instead, you need to be proactive in getting your story packaged together in a professional manner and reaching out to hospitals in your network to tell—no, to prove—your successes with data-driven outcomes. Doing so puts you in a much different negotiating posture—you’ve heard that the best defense is a good offense? This couldn’t be truer in the hospital scenario. Not only does a proactive approach give a great first impression, it also sets the stage for your controlling the discussion.

STEP 2: "KNOW THY CUSTOMER"

There’s only one way to truly know someone else—listening. Many providers may feel tempted to burst through the hospital doors loaded with all kinds of data that talks about how great their facilities are in each and every care service they offer.

But wait a minute, slow down.

If you’ve decided that you have a real role to play in helping your hospital partners reduce rehospitalizations, but also want to get Medicare assistance for your buildings, then you better understand the partner you’re going after.

Before you talk (and completely miss the mark on their pain points), you have to listen. Instead of getting your outcomes data pulled together, first get data about your hospital partner so you know what they’re dealing with, what their weaknesses are and where their gaps lie. Then, plan strategically for how you can fill those gaps with the highest-quality of care at the lowest-possible cost.

The better you prepare, the quicker you’ll win the ear of the hospital CFO as you position yourself as an empathetic partner with mutual business goals. A great sales pitch maps a prospect’s pain points to your solutions, so you’ll need to do just that: find the pain. This step is easy– thanks to lots of free online resources. 

Here are three favorites to check out: 

Sure, you can probably find this kind of information on several other sites in addition to CMS’s Hospital Compare; but what's nice about these is: 

  • They’re consumer-grade sites and friendly to use.  
  • You don’t need too much data – just enough to show you’re listening; you understand the challenges they face; and, you have solutions to alleviate their pain. 
  • You’ll establish the credibility you need to move the conversation from words to action.

STEP 3: PRESENT YOUR SOLUTIONS AS THEY RELATE TO THEIR PAIN POINTS

If the hospital says their problem is cardiac rehab, then by all means, don’t talk about hips and joints. Show them that you’re a savvy healthcare partner—take the information and data that relate directly to their most pressing challenges.

Remember, less is more.

You’ll have a much deeper impact by sticking to the top two-to-three key issues that they’re facing—right now. Fix those first; then, when you get deeper into the relationship, you can show them more of your clinical and operational strengths. That will naturally come when your data-driven, quality outcomes start to build trust and loyalty over time.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll explore the data you’ll need to bring to the table – what hospitals want to see from you. Head’s up: this data is wildly different than what you’ve historically prepared for a discharge planner, so stay tuned.

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