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Transparency—the best solution to long-term care’s perception problem

Please note: This blog captures key points discussed in an article, published in Provider Magazine, by Rich Kortum, NRC Health’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. For even more insight into long-term care’s perception problem, download the full article.

Post-acute care suffers from a perception problem. NRC Health’s research finds that only 23% of adults report confidence in post-acute providers.

That’s a disheartening statistic. For most leaders in long-term care, though, it won’t be a surprise. They already know about the ugly stereotypes surrounding the industry.

And just like many stereotypes, this misperception of long-term care stems from a lack of genuine exposure.

The survey quoted above sampled from the general adult population. These people likely have little basis on which to form their opinions. After all, most adults have no direct experience with a long-term care facility. They’ve never used the service themselves, nor have members of their family.

But among people who have actually been long-term care customers themselves, or who have had a family member reside in a post-acute community, an overwhelming 88% said they would recommend it.

This reveals the dramatic discrepancy between perception and reality. Post-acute care staff members are as dedicated as any other health professionals. They know how well they’re serving residents—and the residents know it, too. It’s unfortunate that the general public does not.

This knowledge gap has obvious consequences for long-term care businesses, and it’s also becoming a major public health problem. It has serious implications for the way people approach their long-term care.

As seniors age, they lose their physical independence. Their bodies limit their ability to care for themselves. Loved ones rarely have the time to provide 24-hour support, and live-in caretakers can be prohibitively expensive. For these people, long-term care centers should be an appealing alternative.

But instead, their misguided perceptions of post-acute care lead them to resent when family members try to “put them in a home.” That’s not a healthy or sustainable attitude to take toward their care.

How leaders can take action

This shows how urgent it is for long-term care leaders to win back public trust. They need to dispel the toxic myth that post-acute communities provide sub-standard care. They need to devise a strategy to reveal the truth to their customers. And the bedrock of for that strategy should be transparency.

Here are two transparency tactics that will help you reframe the public perception of your care.

Monitor third-party ratings

Post-acute leadership should carefully account for their reputation across the internet. Ratings on third-party websites like Facebook and Yelp can exert a powerful influence on consumer choices, and you can’t afford to ignore them.

Watch these ratings closely, and respond to them. Challenge libelous or false statements, but thank honestly critical reviewers for their feedback. This engagement will show your organization’s commitment to transparency—and will make a strong impression on your consumers.

Publish ratings on your community’s site

Often, though, these third-party websites don’t give potential customers the information they need. Typically, sites like Facebook and Yelp draw from only a handful of reviews, which are unverified and unreliable. Post-acute communities should not allow these websites to speak for them.

Instead, long-term care administration should publish verified star rankings themselves, on their organizations’ websites. Doing this will help you control the conversation. It will also streamline the response process. And most importantly, it will prominently reassure your potential residents—and their families—that they’ve found a provider they can trust.

Be an advocate for your care

Post-acute care deserves a better public perception. Because the reality is, staff at these organizations work hard to care for some of the country’s most vulnerable population, and they should be commended for it.

So build a better reputation for your community. Develop a strong online presence that shatters misperceptions about your care. Show human understanding, and earn back the trust of your customers.

Learn more at nrchealth.com/transparency.