Questions aged care executives should be asking.

It’s budget season.  Health and aged care managers have one eye on the day-to-day, and the other on the coming financial year.

If that’s you, what is dominating your thoughts? Because things are changing and, with change, comes risk but also opportunity. There are some important questions to debate across the boardroom table.

As they consider the aged care strategic plan, here’s what we’re asking executives and board members about right now.

How are you delivering value for money?

On 1 July 2014, new aged care means testing and accommodation payment arrangements begin. From May this year, residential aged care providers will be required to publish their accommodation prices and a description of key features of each type of room on the My Aged Care website.

Means testing focuses people on what they get – and what they don’t get – for their money. What are you offering?

Consider the aspects of your organisation that make it unique, how services are delivered, the competencies of your people and systems. Then define your value proposition in terms of functional and emotional benefit: the experience you create as well as the service quality.

And remember that price does not define value for most people.

Where is the unmet demand?

In research we recently conducted, the leader of one of Australia’s most respected funeral industry brands told of how, 40 years ago, it was considered improper to ask a funeral director his price. Wow! The good old days!

Since then an escalating trend has developed whereby families demand flexibility in timing, location, price and content of services. DVDs and, more recently, webcasting are on the rise.

As people think more about value and expectations shift from ‘the government should provide that’ to ‘I want the best care available’, the demand for tailored care is going to increase. The shift is already underway.

Commonwealth community aged care packages only go so far. This is not breaking news. Why then, have so many providers been tentative in developing fee-for-service models?

An organisation’s social purpose is met by creating better health and higher quality of life for its clients. It may be time to consider the mission and how it will be achieved in a future of increasingly complex consumer demands.

Can you think like a solutions provider, not a service provider?

If you have ever spent time in Germany, you have probably come across the retailer, Tchibo.

Tchibo was originally a coffee bean seller and, addicted to (fairly average) coffee, Germans have steadily streamed into their many small stores in towns across the country. One day an employee looked into his coffee cup and saw a different future. He realised that Tchibo could leverage its market visibility and access (stores on high streets), reputation for quality, and entrenched customer loyalty to sell other things. Today, Tchibo still sells coffee from the back of the shop but it also sells ski gear, computers, kitchenware and mobile phone plans.

Can aged care providers, particularly in-home care providers,  think like Tchibo? After all, staff provide a trusted and valued service, walking into thousands of homes across Australia. They enjoy an incredible level of access that, treated with respect, represents great opportunity.

Every older Australian consumes a range of products and services each week. Applying knowledge, experience and social purpose, aged carers can ensure quality, health, wellbeing, and value for money in client choices. Food, clothes, communication technology, social occasions, education. The options are many.

Perhaps it is time you and your Board looked into the coffee cup. What do you see?

Talk to us about facilitating some lateral thinking for your executive team.