Fall 2017 NARA Conference Reflections: Panic, Progress, and Performance

In Business, Marketing, Medicine by Ben

The National Association of Rehabilitation Providers & Agencies — aka NARA. I remember learning about this organization back in my corporate rehab director days; a quickly growing association, I was invited by #PTfam and compliance expert, Nancy Beckley, to connect with their organizational leadership regarding speaking at their Fall 2017 Conference. The topic: Marketing.

More importantly, marketing in the current and ever changing climate of healthcare economics. And, even more than that: marketing in an evidenced based approach, to systematically and sustainably grow a practice of any size.

And, so… as many things go, things got kicked off with a phone call. A few phone calls and emails later, I was officially invited to speak at NARA with a session titled: “Growing Your Practice With Evidenced Based Marketing.”

That — is not where the experienced ended. In fact, it wasn’t even the highlight. Being around a group of professionals… of colleagues — so incredibly involved with the inner workings of health systems at the highest level was an eye opening… terrifyingly wonderful experience.

These, are my reflections.


Fall 2017 NARA Conference Reflections: Panic, Progress, and Performance

I’ll preface the true body of this blogpost by saying that the humor isn’t lost on me that this sound very much like the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Truly, this event was a lot of fun. We had fun talking about Millennials — both challenges in inter-generational connectivity as well as the admiration for the energy & passion within this newest, biggest generational demographic since the Baby Boomers. We talked about the coming changes within the healthcare landscape and some scary compliance concerns that most companies will not be on time for this year… leading us to…!

Panic

Despite the entire conference being primarily comprised of industry leaders, all in their own right — enterprise executives, compliance officers, directors, business owners… I think it’s safe to say that 90% of the attendees all had moments of panic when fellow industry experts shared the coming trends within the physical rehabilitation world and the state of healthcare at large.

There is a LOT to prepare for. And, there is a lot that many have even yet to be aware of, that they are late to the game. I’d do a severe disservice in trying to summarize any one of these talks. However, I can definitely point you to the live tweet hashtag #NARA2017.

Suffice to say, the panic surrounding healthcare reform, compliance, safety, billing, coding, reimbursement, and value based care — these are buzzwords, no longer. If you do not have a specific strategy in address each of these elements, you’re already behind. A Recommended Solution: Start digging. Approach the listed speakers and experts. Maybe even consider joining the association (nope, they didn’t pay me to write that).

Progress

My view from the outside, was that many of the members of NARA have been in the game for their entire career… clinicians, administrators, owners, managers, directors, executives, policy makers… 15+, 20+, 30+ years, dedicated to the trailblazing and the growth of our industry — just being around these fantastic individuals was intimidating and enthralling to say the least.

Hearing their stories that were off stage, the forward movement that has been made over the decades along with what they see as opportunities to be realized were amazing conversations to be part of; and, for many, to be a fly on the wall for.

Perhaps the most encouraging element of this conference was that the entire theme was based on focusing on the variables which could be controlled for while managing the constants within the business of physical rehabilitation. And… that, despite the panic — the emotional content was more of a motivator to get ahead of the curve rather than dismay over the changing times. This lead to many discussion on…!

Performance

A truly interesting experience of this conference was serving as one of four “Sharks” of the NARA “Shark Tank.” Essentially, volunteering entities sent representatives to pitch their organizational innovations to the industry leaders in policy, compliance, reform, and marketing (that was me!). The topics covered many areas including new auditing products, internal CRM with soft mention to Strive Labs (and, of course, WebPT), patient engagement strategies, company growth using strong organizational foundations, employee training using technological platforms, and measuring worth in preparing for value based care.

Each of these pitches represented projects that were either in full swing or in the earlier stages of implementation. Regardless, entity representatives hailed from all disciplines of rehabilitation therapy and demonstrated the incredible potential of collaboration.

If I had to peg a common thread of all the pitches, it would be human capital growth — in both raw talent, but also workflow competency. Companies are quickly recognizing the parallel need in talent growth as well as consumer market growth. To win, you need great people on your team to serve the growing customer demand. To generate growing customer demand, you need multiple systems in place to reach audiences at the right time with the right message for the right action — CONSISTENTLY.


It was truly a privilege and an honor to speak at NARA Fall 2017. Next year, they are coming to my town — San Diego; and, I hope to get another invite. Over the years, I’ve also realized that with all these speaking gigs, there are some global threads to each event and organization:

  1. We are at an all time high of talent demand from the consumer demand side of rehab therapies.
  2. Companies are struggling in engaging talent in ways that keeps them passionate about what they do.
  3. Practices of all sizes are struggling with the transition to digital marketing avenues; it’s just not part of our clinical DNA — HOWEVER, recognition of the need is widespread throughout all tiers of leadership. Implementation and staging is the question at hand; MANY companies are considering outsourced solutions.
  4. Payment reform, compliance, billing/coding, and legislation needs to be at the forefront of all practices, regardless of size or scale. It is on this dimension that much of our economic viability is relied upon. Rehabilitation therapy professionals are licensed; our practices are governed by law… trying to escape this is not just folly, it will doom our chances at any type of transformative growth.
  5. Organizational Culture has become as huge a threat as it is an opportunity. In a separate breakout session that I was invited to be a guest moderator, we discovered that companies of all sizes are struggling in team spirit, morale, and a cohesive connective culture that keeps employees not just engaged, but inspired. There a great need for corporate culture change, growth, and rejuvenation — something I’ve been privileged to participate in my earlier career and hopeful that entities will reach out to each other to glean from past successes and failures for mutual benefit.

Perhaps one of the most enlightening elements of this conference was this: A healthcare-admin-heavy conference would be one of the last types of conferences I would’ve been inclined participated in. After all, I’m in the world of marketing, business strategy, consulting, career development, media and public relations… topics such as compliance, reform, and the like are hardly top of mind — now that I’m no longer directly related in corporate management.

BUT! I am soooo glad I went and attended the days that I was able to join. I would encourage you, to sign up for conferences with topics that seem far out from typical interest — national level organizations invite industry tops speakers for a reason. You. Will. LEARN. And, you’ll be glad you did! I, most certainly am.

 

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