Delivering Great Value for Home Care Referral Sources

 In Home Health, Hospice, Industry Voices, News, Webinars

Post-Acute Collaborative: 3 Secrets for Delivering for Your Referral Sources

 Alliances and partnerships are critical in healthcare today. Home health, private duty, palliative care providers, and hospice are the collaborators acute care providers need to help patients manage the disease process at home. The real question for home health leaders is if their agencies are seen as a provider of choice for their referral partners.

Melanie Stover, OT, MBA, MS/ISM — president of Home Care Sales — recently told attendees of a DeVero-hosted webinar (“3 Secrets for Delivering Great Value to Your Referral Sources that Keep Competitors at Bay) that if their sales staff are able to apply the correct metrics, and can speak the language of referring medical agencies, they’ll set themselves apart from competitors.

Home health agencies must go beyond being just a “vendor” and transform “your agency into a true partner.” By elevating yourself and your agency to a trusted business partner — sharing the same vision and goals as your referral sources — you become indispensable; and you protect your account by making it bulletproof to your competitors.

During the presentation, she also detailed how home health agency leaders can put their accounts “in the vault” and lock up their flow of referrals.

Massive action wins

While it may sound like a battle cry for a high school sports team, “massive action wins” is Stover’s rally statement for home health agency leaders and their sales folks. Agencies must move. Home health leaders just need to take some action and move forward with strategies to engage referral sources to better serve them.

More directly, by “moving” you might be able to put your agency – or even yourself – in the position of being named a trusted referral partner source for all of your partner agencies. The first step in moving is simply asking your referral sources what they are facing, what is impacting them and how you can help.

It’s a simple strategy – asking questions of your referral partners – but it is “massive action” if you’re the only one doing so.

Making connections

In taking such action, home health leaders and those who engage referral sources are attempting to make connections with their referral partners and deepen existing relationships. Post-acute care collaboratives are top of mind at the moment, so the market is being defined by making, and developing, connections.

“Connecting with your referral sources is where you are going to make connections” Stover said. “For me it’s about making connections with my referral connections – for example, identify how you can report back to your referral sources to provide them information that’s meaningful to them.”

 What your referral partners want

What do your partners really want from you? Now is the time to ask. In so doing, you’ll begin to take yourself from being just a “vendor” to becoming a partner for them. In many cases, though, your partners may not what they want. In some cases you may have to show them what you can provide; your referral sources might not know what they can get from you to help them better serve patients. You need to start by asking really good questions about what’s really important to them. This will help you understand what they may need from you and can even help you boost your business.

“I asking them what their goals are, how they are being judged and what the future looks like for them,” she said during the webinar. “It’s amazing what you can find out if you ask questions because it goes beyond just serving patients. However, if you receive any information from your partners, you must then figure out how to align with your referral sources to meet their business outcomes.”

What can you do?

Can you collect data out of your electronic health record? Is there data readily available to collate? Can you gain information about what your partners need from the available data, using patient information from the referral source, for example? How hard/easy is this data to collect? Is there anything available that can be boiled down and used in a productive manner?

 Do you communicate with referral sources?

Do you communicate with those who provide you with referrals to ensure the survival of your home health agency? Do you let them know what happens to patients that get referred to your agency?

Communication is key. When you receive referred patients, do you go back and thank the referral source? What about admissions? Do you communicate with your referral partners how many patients get admitted? What do you do with the non-admitted referred patients? Are you reporting back to the referrer and the reasons the patient was not admitted?

What are the patient outcomes looking like? Do you have any re-admissions within 30 days, and, if so, are you sharing any of the data in regard to these patients and helping problem solve around these individuals? Finally, are there any other resources you could have used or suggested to serve the patients better? Would your referral sources like to know this information? Perhaps you’ll never know unless you ask them.

Are you tracking anything?

Are you tracking anything? If so, what? Tracking is a “big deal.” Your referral sources are tracking information so you need to be tracking information, too, Stover said. Even private duty providers should be tracking anything that they can track that might be beneficial to referral partners. “Even if you can’t do so through an EHR, track data old-school with spreadsheets,” she said.

A word of caution, however. You might think you know what your partners want (and, as mentioned above, you might be able to provide them with some data that could be useful to them even if they don’t know what they want), but those individuals who are referring patients to you may not know the goals of their organization, or may not understand them. So, don’t stop with them; if the referral source doesn’t know, move to a different person — there is someone at the agency that examines data and compares it to their partners.

Data gets you in front of referral partners

Your referral partners care about data and what it looks like, even if some of them don’t know how to formulate and organize it for their benefit. Stover recommends that home health leaders create their own documents to profile a number of important data points as a way of communicating with their referral partners to forge deeper relationships with them.

Data also helps you get in front of decision makers at the referral organization and likely puts your organization on the path of becoming a true partner agency.

Stover recommends drafting reports that document information, such as the number of referrals received; the number of patients admitted; the start of care for each patient; the number of 30-day admissions; as well as providing a short executive summary of the information to make consumption of the data easier to understand.

“This information will help you get in front of your referrers and build relationships with them,” she said. “These strategies can build relationships.” She also advises that reports are crafted from fairly readily available information. Some agencies may want more data than this, but it’s a start. “You are starting to move the relationship forward. Start simple, start small, but start.”

For those working with accountable care organizations (ACOs), the reports might include: the number of referrals; patients admitted; starts of care; care initiation times; the number of refused patients; and the diagnosis; as well as providing a summary and trends observed. You might need to customize this data.

In either case, because of this information, “you can establish yourself as a primary referral source. You set yourself above the competition through data,” she said.

Transitional Care

In regard to the transition of care, agencies can further separate themselves from the competition by supporting the transition from the inpatient hospital setting. For example, consider providing pre-discharge consultation; establishing a response time for meeting patients at the care facility; creating a flexible intake process; meeting patients and family upon discharge (if possible); front loading visits and shifts; and helping patients get back to the primary care physicians and alerting PCPs that you have their patient in your care and would like to coordinate for transitional care billing.

The action plan

Successful action begins with a plan. In addition to the above, Stover suggests taking the following steps to create your winning plan:

  • Identify your target accounts — which of your referral sources are you going to target with your plans, data and relationship information? Why? How often will you give data to them?
  • Gather your data – make sure the data is good. Know what you are talking about. Recognize where you think you have a competitive advantage then lead from there.
  • Create a template – something you can fill in readily and that’s fairly easy to complete.
  • Gain appointment with decision makers – find out who these people are if they are different than your referral sources.
  • Start discussions and establish expectations – what are you looking for in the data? How can we better serve you? Let them elaborate, and go from there.
  • Pilot a program – allow the opportunity to continue, and perfect feedback loop. Seek feedback and modify systems to meet expectations better.
  • Once successful, repeat.

 There’s more …

As discussed in DeVero webinar, alliances and partnerships are critical in healthcare today, especially for home health providers. If your sales and leadership staff are able to apply the correct metrics for success in referrals, you can go beyond being just a “vendor” and transform your agency into a true partner. When you elevate yourself and your agency into a trusted business partner that shares the same vision and goals as your referral sources, you become indispensable to them.

To learn more secrets to success and suggestions by Stover, listen to the DeVero webinar for free, here:

To learn more about how DeVero helps agencies like yours, visit our software solutions for home health page.

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