Due to the unique nature of their patient populations, many post-acute providers already consider themselves specialists. However, there is still significant space for post-acute providers to move further into creating well-defined, high-quality clinical service lines. Embracing specialization allows providers to present a clear value proposition that can safeguard volumes by capitalizing on emerging health system needs and preferences.
In order to achieve success, a specialty must represent a cohesive business venture rather than simply a marketing endeavor. It requires significant investment and organizational commitment. Building and sustaining a strong specialty over time means allocating dedicated resources to treating a specific patient population and driving to a high level of clinical quality, ensuring the specialty is different from and clearly, unquestionably better than competitors’ offerings.
Specialization is a business philosophy wherein the organization makes conscious, principled decisions to focus on specific patient groups and creates dedicated, distinct clinical programs to serve those patients.
The post-acute industry has increasingly turned to specialization as a solution to the commoditization of post-acute services by referrers and payers. Specialties are overwhelmingly common, with majority of providers offering at least one specialty. However, only a minimal number of providers are satisfied with the ROI they have seen from their specialty. There are three reasons this is the case across the industry:
Lack of organizational commitment
Many post-acute providers have introduced specialty programs, but a large swath have not fully committed organization-wide. Despite claiming to have added a new specialty line, many providers report no operational changes to support the program.
Used as marketing, not a clinical model
Organizations commonly promote specialization not worthy of the term. Nearly all post-acute organizations claim specialized services, but such proclamations have limited impact in the market. Most provider specialties are commonly offered services, while the marketed outcome accolades are unsubstantiated.
Not part of an overall strategy
To derive value from specialization, it must represent a cohesive, comprehensive clinical strategy. However, providers tend to exclude specialty programs from the overall organizational strategic goals.
Through our research on the topic and conversations with thought leaders working on these problems, we have uncovered the following insights:
A true specialty is a program the organization supports at all levels with necessary resources committed. It is highly distinct from other offerings in the market, both because it is unique and because it demonstrates excellent clinical care and outcomes. These programs possess the following:
Although the requirements for true specialization are the same across all organizations, not all successful specialties look alike. A wide variety of specialty types exist—all of which can drive ROI for the organization when properly operated. The most common option for specialization is to focus on one or more diagnoses, though it it’s not the only option. Providers can also choose to specialize in treating select impairments or even patient groups, such as exceptionally high-acuity patients or patients of a narrow age group, depending on the post-acute provider’s sector and market needs.
Specialization is a means to enhance patient care and secure a critical place in the market. Program development should enable strong partnerships with referral sources, driving volume growth and inclusion in narrowing referral networks. Concurrently, a strong specialty enables the organization to explore new business opportunities amid continuing payment transformation.
To ensure successful return on specialty investment, post-acute providers need to focus on three strategies. This resource will dive into each and explore seven tactics to ensure for a successful creation and implementation of a specialty.
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