Is Your Therapy Provider a Generalist or Specialist?
From a business perspective, healthy organizations should have a combination of generalists and specialists. So what is the difference between a generalist and specialist? A generalist knows a little about a lot of things. A specialist knows a lot about a few things, thus becoming an expert.
Today, Skilled Nursing Facilities employ experts (specialists) in their specific fields like: Dieticians, Nurse Consultants, Medical Director, MDS Coordinators, etc. At the same time, the Administrator or Executive Director is the highest ranking generalist. The key in this role is to know enough about a lot of things to successfully and profitably operate the healthcare facility. Their goal is to know enough about the business to ascertain if each part is helping the facility to be successful.
Athletics Specialty vs. Generality
In the Olympics, Decathletes compete in 10 track and field events over a two day period. In order to compete, Decathletes must have general knowledge and train for each specific event for a period of time to reach the Olympics.
Let’s just focus on training for one event… say the Javelin throw. Because a Decathlete trains for 10 different events, they may only allocate 40 minutes per week to train for this event. Conversely, a specialist who competes only in the Javelin throw will train 30-plus hours per week. Not only does the specialist practice throwing more often, they also focus on all the small yet critical assistive muscles that contribute to longer throwing.
The result: The world’s #1 Decathlete Ashton Eaton’s career best Javelin (66.64) throw wouldn’t qualify as an individual event in the Olympic trials, he would have been 19th. In fact, the best U.S. Javelin thrower Breaux Greer (91.29) threw it 36% further.
Therapy Specialty vs. Generality
Some Administrators, Board Members or Executive Directors may not yet understand the difference between a generalist and specialist in the therapy world. To better illustrate this point, we put together a few characteristics to identify the different types of therapy companies:
- Have a wide range of interests and treatment techniques
- Treat all populations and wide ranging conditions (width)
- Have varying general knowledge of the therapy business (lack depth)
Therapy Generalists work with wide-ranging populations and in differing environments to provide care. Their general knowledge in therapy allows them to treat at schools, outpatient clinics, wellness clinics, and other occupational environments.
- Provide services at Regional Hospitals
- Run their own outpatient clinics
- Contract with your competitors
Competitive Generalists are an emerging group in the Long-Term Care profession that may be hard to identify at times. These therapy companies that take on all types of contracts that may actually compete with you in your marketplace. At times, they can monopolize communities by providing services in every healthcare facility at the same time.
- Focus on a specific population and conditions within that demographic (depth)
- Strategically partner with facilities to improve outcomes (depth)
- Fully understand the SNF business outside of therapy including: payment systems, regulatory and legislative (depth)
Educated and progressive Administrators understand the intrinsic value of hiring a specialist in therapy services. There is a tremendous value in having a team with in-depth knowledge of the SNF business in tangible and intangible ways. Administrators who have adopted this model of business have experienced better outcomes, lower re-admissions, stronger ACO and bundled payment relationships, and healthier bottom lines.
When You Need a Specialist
As we delve into the new world of nursing home regulation and outcomes based reimbursements there is a fundamental question that keeps arising:
If the goal is to provide the highest quality of care as possible within the constraints of available resources, what is the right balance between specialist and generalist in your facility?
How do you know when you need a specialist? The main indication is slumping therapy and facility revenues. In some situations, the decline has happened over a long period of time and Administrators don’t always see it. Some generalist symptoms you may uncover upon inspection include: poor therapy staffing, unenthusiastic therapists who don’t want to be at your facility, poor attendance at meetings, and therapists asking you what the regulations are.
If your goal is to provide the highest quality care as possible within the constraints of available resources, then consider partnering with a specialist.
With the same resources you currently allocate for therapy services, you can grow your facility by partnering with a company with expert knowledge in SNF therapy. Much like a specialist throwing a javelin, a therapy specialist can transform your facility and get you 36% further.
About the Author:
Jay Pfalzgraf is the Director of Business Development at Blue Stone Therapy, the leading specialist in SNF contract therapy services. He is passionate about helping SNF facilities transform through therapy.