How to Improve Your Referral Process and Build Your Agency

Monday, October 10, 2016

Referrals are a key part of every home health agency’s marketing strategy. In a competitive marketplace, getting as many referrals as possible from hospitals, physicians, and other sources, can mean the difference between an agency thriving or having to reduce services — or even close its doors.


In such a competitive environment, then, how can you manage your referral process in such a way that you can maintain relationships with your existing referral sources while also cultivating new referral sources? There are a number of ways to do this, both high and low tech, and putting the work into your referral program can increase your profits and help your agency grow.


Electronic Referrals

For many agencies, electronic referrals are a step in the right direction. Rather than working with paper or telephone referrals, an electronic referral system allows hospitals or other referring providers to send all of the information that the HHA needs right away, so that the agency can begin the intake process and scheduling quickly, and reduce delays in the delivery of care.


In addition, electronic referrals managed through the agency’s home health care software also allow for more efficient patient management. For example, when a patient who is referred to the HHA electronically is readmitted to the hospital, the HHA can be notified immediately via the patient record, allowing the agency to remain involved and coordinate with the care team to determine the best course of action going forward, and to resolve and potential scheduling issues that will occur while the patient is hospitalized.


Accepting electronic referrals from providers gives your agency a leg up on the competition. However, before you can accept the referrals, you need to work on establishing relationships to ensure that your agency is on the list to call when needed.


Improving Your Referral Process

Before you can accept referrals electronically, however, you need to cultivate your referral sources. For those agencies not contracted as part of a health care system or operated by a health care facility, this means building relationships with potential referral sources. This is one area where quantity isn’t necessarily better than quality.


It’s far better to have excellent relationships with a few constant sources than to have a long list of providers you’ve worked with only once or twice. This doesn’t mean you should put all of your eggs in one basket, just that you should work to develop good working relationships with a few targeted physicians rather than reaching out to everyone in your area haphazardly.


However, beyond working on physician outreach, you need to treat every contact with your agency as a potential referral. Every single time the phone rings, you need to expect that it could be a referral on the line — or someone who might be calling for services in the future. And for those calls that are inquiring about a referral, treat the caller as someone who will be contracting your services from the very start.


This means, instead of requesting that they contact their provider to get an official referral, or directing them to see a nurse first before you establish their file, begin the intake process from the first call. That way, when all of the necessary paperwork is available, you already have the ball rolling.


The same approach can improve your relationships with provider offices when they call to make referrals to your agency. Instead of just hanging up and saying thank you, ask if there is anything else you can help with. Sometimes, all it takes is that simple question to open the door to a conversation that can result in more clients for your agency.


Use Your Data Wisely

Your referral patterns can actually be a rich source of information for your agency, and help you develop future marketing and strategy plans. By looking at data, you can refine your marketing plans to better serve those referral sources that bring business in to your agency while also identifying gaps in your marketing. Consider data such as:


  • The number of new client inquiries and referrals you receive in a specific period
    • The reasons that inquiries or referrals didn’t result in new clients
    • How many billable hours you had per converted referral
  • The different types of referral sources

This way, you can better refine your efforts and spend your marketing budget in the most effective and meaningful way possible. Managing your referrals is an important part of running a successful home health agency. By focusing on building mutually beneficial relationships with referral sources, making the process as easy and efficient as possible, and using data to refine your efforts, you can not only increase the growth of your business, but improve the operations as well.


And when you incorporate Complia Health's home health software solutions, that process becomes even easier.