Recap: Insights from the Hospice Community


By: Ashton Harrison | July 29, 2020


As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, the effects on healthcare have been significant. We recently held a live panel discussion with four hospice organizations to hear what they’ve learned during the global pandemicFrom business development to employee morale, these organizations shared their personal experiences and lessons learned. If you missed the webinar, check out the on-demand recording here.  


Our host, Nikki Condra, is a senior customer success manager at Trella and has worked in post-acute healthcare for 13 years. She began her career working for a hospice organization and has always had a passion for the industry. The four panelists on the webinar included:  


  • Will Manion- Director of Business Development and Strategy at Agrace Hospice
  • Stephanie OrenyakVice President at Sonata Hospice
  • Marty BensonDivisional Sales Leader at AccentCare
  • Mike BriggsDirector of Community Relations Keystone Hospicewho was also joined by his community relations team- Abbi Henstra, Lori Delaney, and Jesse Besonen   


In addition to the great ideas shared by our panelists, our audience questions brought more topics to light. Here’s a quick recap of what we discussed: 


How has your team stayed connected and what activities helped with employee morale? 


Will with Agrace shared how their employee director deployed Manager Moments weekly emails, which included best practices for balancing life and work, working from home, and communicating virtually. These efforts resulted in the highest employee engagement survey to date, despite the pandemic, and the organization’s team mentality and on-going communication greatly contributed to employee morale during an unfamiliar time. 


Stephanie with Sonata shared how her team implemented a daily virtual huddle with the sales team, whose daytoday operations had been greatly impacted. This has allowed them to stay connected, and Stephanie compared the virtual zoom calls to medicine due to the positive impact of being able to see team members’ faces.  


Marty with AccentCare agreed with Stephanie that daily touchpoints with the sales team have been incredibly valuable. He shared the importance of leadership communicating frequently to maintain trust and reassurance to the team, and how their CEO shares daily updates. Lastly, he stated the importance of recognition and appreciation for employees and shared the virtual event called Embrace the Heroes that AccentCare hosted for its employees.  


Lastly, Abbi with Keystone explained that her organization has boosted morale by bragging on its employees.  Abbi created a project called Keystone Spotlightswhich are weekly spotlights on Keystone team members explaining who they are, their personal passions, and their ‘Why’ for working in the hospice industry. She said it’s been a great way to get to know team members, and employees feel empowered to work harder than ever with the much-deserved recognition.  


How were you able to maintain and grow referral partnerships?  


Will with Agrace stated the importance of adapting and catering to each partner as they are all navigating the pandemic differently. His tip was to listen closely to referral partners’ needs and follow their requests to a T. Agrace Hospice even acted as staffing agency and re-deployed its staff to assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, with the goal of alleviating staffing burdens and to help with demandsWill shared how their all hands-on deck mentality allowed the healthcare community to come together in times of crisis. 


Marty with AccentCare spoke about the power of creativity and utilizing remote capabilities, including remote CEU accreditation and remote bereavement services for SNF facilities whose staff was mourning the impact from COVID-19. Other creative events included Facebook live event where assisted living residents were played music virtually, and the simple outreach tactics of holding signs for residents who are unable to see their families. Small acts of kindness, such as birthday recognition and milestoneswere critical for maintaining partnerships at a difficult time.  


Lastly, Mike with Keystone also shared their use of virtual tools, most importantly YouTubeThe Keystone YouTube channel features stories on their hospice patients, which they share with referral partners. One of their most recent videos involved a hospice patient who wanted to see his home one last time and was driven there to share BBQ with his wife. Check out the touching video. These personal videos leave a mark on referral partners and allowed Keystone to be front of mind for case managers and discharge planners 


Did your agency find ways to support the community, or did you personally receive any support? 


Will with Agrace shared the unique partnership that began in his community, which involved the Edgewater Hotel cooking and delivering over 2,000 meals to Agrace’s patients. The UW football team even got involved and created a GoFundMe which raised over $70,000. This special partnership of three organizations that would never normally overlap resulted in amazing benefits for the patients in need  


Stephanie with Sonata told us about a community concept called Pandemic Pizza, which involved two gourmet chefs in the San Diego area who began making pizzas for the community. To recognize Sonata’s selfless nurses, the leadership team ordered pizza for all the nurses and their families. The nurses were able to further pass it forward by sending a pizza to a recipient of their choice, and Stephanie described the experience as a home run for all parties.  


Abbi and Lori with Keystone shared a few ways their organizations supported the community, the first being a competition called #IdahoTough. The competition involved teams getting creative to show how they are tougher than COVID, and the winning organization received a pizza party. This event served as a fun and lighthearted way to boost morale during a difficult period. The second story was about the Parade of Hope, which involved a parade of cars consisting of music, balloons, and even a camel named Clyde who were a sight to see for residents and facilities.  


How has your team utilized any down time, and has data assisted your agency?  


Will with Agrace explained how the release of Q4 Trella Health data provided the opportunity to update marketing materials and deploy the updated materials to partners. In addition, Agrace began providing virtual admissions by dropping off laptops at facilities that needed to refer patients but were not equipped with the software requiredLastly, best practices for COVID-19 infection prevention were studied and the information was passed along through webinars to staff members.   


Stephanie with Sonata shared how their time was used for Trella weekly training and data digging. After the completion of training, Sonata began using Trella’s data to create strategic sales plans and case studies. Stephanie shared how Trella allows her team to work smarter rather than harder, and the time not spent out in the field has been used efficiently for post-COVID-19 strategic planning 


Marty with AccentCare shared how he began his role in February and, like Stephanie, used this time for weekly Trella training. Marty stated how successful sales teams must manage their time to focus on the right referral opportunities, and Trella has become a mission-critical tool for their day to day process 


Has your agency implemented any new outreach tactics or virtual tools?  


Will with Agrace discussed their agency’s shift to remote outreach and catering their outreach to the partner’s preferred communication style. He noted some partners still prefer a socially distanced face to face meeting, while some are asking for calls or emails  


Stephanie with Sonata mentioned how her team is finding success by hosting Zoom lunch and learn meetings and has food delivered to the facility. Although it took time and patience to transition to this virtual style of meetings, she stated it has resulted in more face time with physicians. The key to success has been dropping off a laminated card with the Zoom link. 


Mike with Keystone spoke again about the value of YouTube videos and created a COVID-19 video explaining Keystone’s response and capabilities to help patients during the pandemic. These videos can be easily emailed over to referral partners.  


What are lessons learned, permanent changes, or final words from your COVID-19 experience? 


Will with Agrace feels his organization will continue to allow remote work and utilize virtual outreach. He concluded with the importance of being agile, communicating, and adjusting to partners and their personal needs 


Stephanie with Sonata believes Zoom will continue to play a large role with her organization, both internally as well as with their outreach. She also feels they will continue to have more frequent meetings as it has been a positive change for the team. 


Marty with AccentCare feels COVID-19 has resulted in the positive acceleration of virtual tools, both for the sales team and clinically, and although abrupt he feels it will leave a positive impact on ongoing operations and policies  


The Keystone team shared a Plato quote they’ve been following, “necessity is the mother of invention.” They feel that although the pandemic has been a trying period, it has also resulted in creative and thoughtful ideas that brought comradery within the community.  


We’re so grateful for the participation of our panelists and audience. Hopefully, these ideas have sparked your creativity to help your business grow during this time. If you’re ready to get started updating sales plans and marketing materials, Trella customers can view Q4 2019 Medicare claims data by logging in to Marketscape to see the updated trends. Not a Trella Health customer yet? Learn more about our market intelligence solution, Marketscape, today! 


If you have more questions for our panelistswould like to participate in a future panel discussion, or if your team has discovered new ways to communicate with prospects, we would love to know! Join our Post-Acute Care Leadership Network on LinkedIn to share your thoughts and ideas. For more helpful tools, from email marketing best practices to finding success with an effective website, check out our free resources. 

About the Author:

Ashton Harrison, Marketing Engagement Manager

With a diverse background of sales and healthcare marketing, Ashton manages Trella’s events, press releases, and media and association relations.


After graduating from Florida State University with a major in communications, she began her career at Greenway Health, a EHR company, where she found her passion for the healthcare industry.


At Trella Health, she’s able to do all the things she loves about marketing — engaging at events, interactions with partners, and creating marketing pieces that share insight on Trella’s journey.

Carly Duncan

Carly is passionate about all things related to digital marketing. She handles Trella's website publication, social media management, digital asset creation, and more. Prior to her role as the Digital Specialist, Carly started at Trella as a marketing intern and then as a top-performing BDR. Carly graduated from Kennesaw State University where she found her passion for establishing personal relationships through the power of digital storytelling.