Any home care business’s success relies heavily on its partnerships with others, perhaps even more so during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the many changes to working practices over the last 12 months, home care is still very much a ‘relationship’ business.
Referral partner relationships are one crucial part of building and maintaining a healthy home care agency because that is where most of your new clients will come from.
According to a recent benchmarking study, 33.3% of home care agencies still consider their most significant growth opportunity to be strengthening relationships with referral sources.
Whether you are looking to work more closely with ACOs, hospitals, hospices, hospital discharge planners, physicians, or local senior centers, a strong referral network is essential in such a crowded market.
Working well with other healthcare businesses and understanding what they’re looking for is key to creating and sustaining mutually beneficial partnerships, achieving preferred provider status, and increasing your client pipeline.
Unfortunately, these great partnerships don’t just happen overnight but require a solid strategy and continued effort on your part to set your home care agency apart from the competition and secure a productive and profitable 2021.
We’ve put together a list of 7 ways you can begin to strengthen your referral partner relationships, starting today.
1. Remember, it is personal
Every hospital, nursing home and healthcare setting is made up of individuals, including caseworkers, social workers, and doctors. While agencies typically receive numerous referrals from the same source, they often don’t personally know the individuals making the referrals.
Developing your business through strategic partnerships is all about creating and nurturing mutually beneficial, personal relationships – which require your time and effort to bear fruit.
It is invaluable to know who is referring to your agency and to take the time to build a strong bond with them and their team. Where possible, ask to be introduced to key employees within each setting and to new employees when they join. When referrals are made, be sure to send hand-written thank-you notes and keep them informed about how their patients are doing in accordance with HIPAA rules.
While it can be time-consuming, demonstrating thoughtfulness and being more personally connected will set you apart from other agencies, strengthen your referral partner relationship, and secure more referrals in the future.
2. Regular, meaningful and constructive communication
Don’t fall into the habit of seeking a referral every time you communicate with your referral sources. It is vital to stay in regular contact with your referral partners in ways that are beneficial to both parties. Despite COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face meetings, it is possible to maintain a connection in other, creative ways. For example:
- Keep in regular contact with referral sources online or via apps.
- Email them relevant, researched, industry-related articles that affect your shared patients/clients and businesses.
- Share your agency’s newsletters/blogs to demonstrate your expertise in the industry and local community, and promote what your agency can provide, including regular updates on COVID-19 protocols and safety measures.
- Become a resource, offering advice, education and advocacy, without seeking anything in return.
- Create and share short videos to promote any new services, specialist areas, safety measures, etc.
- Share updates on any improvements within your agency. For example, if you have updated your home care software system, have a new clinical documentation portal or improved caregiver-scheduling capabilities – which can all promote patient/client satisfaction.
- Follow them on social media – LinkedIn, Facebook and Google My Business (once you have established a relationship) – and comment positively on their articles or posts.
Showing your credibility through meaningful connection, your referral partners will see your home care agency as mutually beneficial and something they (and their patients) can rely on, which is hugely important in establishing strong, long-term relationships.
3. Utilizing new technology to streamline referral processes
Digitizing patient records used to be all that was required to stay current, but sending and receiving information digitally is no longer adequate. As reimbursement becomes more focused on patient outcomes, with penalties for hospital readmissions increasing, health care companies need to keep track of their patients more than ever.
There are software companies, such as SMARTcare, bridging the gap between multiple healthcare systems, enabling your home care agency and referral partners to quickly and efficiently access critical patient/client data.
For example, with a streamlined referral management process, your caregivers will have immediate access to a patient/client’s health history and associated care plans directly from the referral source. In addition, they can quickly and easily add visit notes and assessments, and develop client care plans, freeing up time to focus on their relationships with clients and referral sources. This type of technology also allows clinicians to capture evaluations in real-time, eliminating the burden of ‘paper pushing’ and reducing the likelihood of inaccuracies.
The sooner your agency can complete the start-of-care visit and meet all the clinical requirements, the faster you can receive reimbursements. Also, patients/clients are more likely to receive the care they need sooner, which is a significant factor in lowering the likelihood of rehospitalization.
By utilizing these technologies to streamline processes and track your referral pipeline leads, you can increase the speed and fluidity of care transitions, and strengthen the bond with your referral partners by demonstrating that you are on top of the ever-shifting home care landscape.
4. Make robust data-sharing easy
With the COVID-19 crisis and increased reporting requirements, referral partners are continuously refining their network based on more scrutinized criteria.
Seamless and robust data sharing has become vital in their decision-making process.
To gain (or strengthen) preferred provider status with professional referral partners in 2021, you need to streamline how you gather and document key data points, including:
- Client pipeline
- Fall prevention
- Hospital readmissions
- Client satisfaction
- Caregiver satisfaction.
If you don’t currently have an automated system for collecting key data about your operations, there are simple solutions you can set up, such as SMARTcare’s software. Things like risk events, incident trends, hospitalizations and client satisfaction become easy to track (and share with your referral partners) with graphic data assets to demonstrate the level of care and attention that your agency can offer.
Home care agencies investing in the right technology can efficiently secure a steady flow of client referrals. With a suitable software solution, your agency can maintain workflows that drive high quality care, remain compliant and build credibility with referral partners by clearly demonstrating outcomes.
5. Build credibility by improving outcomes
Through the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), CMS has reduced Medicare payments to hospitals with readmissions within 30 days of discharge for specific conditions. To help reduce readmission rates and ensure patients are placed in settings best suited to their recovery, hospitals are increasingly scrutinizing home care agencies within their networks.
As a result, agencies looking to strengthen referral partner relationships and gain more referrals need to have data-driven conversations with hospitals, including demonstrating their ability to reduce hospital readmissions and promote better clinical outcomes.
A lack of medication management is often cited as one of the key drivers behind hospital readmissions, so home care agencies with in-home medication management as a core component of their operations will stand out as preferred partners.
Home care platforms, like SMARTcare, can enable agencies to monitor readmission risk status. The right software solution can allow all caregivers involved in a patient’s care to view every detail of a care plan so that everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goals from the onset of care delivery and maintain workflows that ensure better outcomes.
6. Utilize mobile technology
Referral partners are becoming increasingly interested in agencies offering mobile apps and adding other solutions to their existing technology. For some patients/clients, this is essential due to being uncomfortable with in-person visits during the pandemic, but it is also beneficial for agencies with limited access to personal protective equipment.
Using mobile point-of-care apps, caregivers can quickly track vitals such as weight, diet, blood pressure and pulse, and other activities performed as part of their home care plan visit. They can then make this data available to the patient/clients care team through HIPAA secure access. It is now a standard part of the patient intake process for agencies to determine whether clients have a suitable device and wi-fi connection and are happy to receive virtual visits.
Using mobile technology, such as SMARTcare’s mobile point-of-care solutions, not only improves your clients’ care experience and your caregivers’ workflows but can also help to make your agency highly attractive to referral partners.
7. Measure and track referral sources
It is important to ensure that you have a system in place to track every visit and communication with your referral partners and a way of tracking referrals you receive from each of them.
Working with every potential referral partner is simply not practical, so it is essential to narrow down partnership opportunities and focus your attention on those with the most potential impact for your home care agency. This can be a daunting practice, but a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) system, such as that included in SMARTcare’s software, is highly recommended.
In addition to tracking referral sources, SMARTcare software includes reporting and analytics to help you track where most clients come from and identify areas within their community where there is currently no presence. This is hugely beneficial in helping you to prioritize which referral partnerships are worth your time to build and strengthen.
A well-rounded home care agency needs business to come from many sources, including reputation, digital marketing, internet searches, and community relationships.
Regular engagement with referral partners is an essential part of building and nurturing relationships and continuing to receive a steady stream of referrals. Strengthening these relationships take persistence, patience and a clear strategy.
However, the key component that is naturally going to strengthen any referral partner relationship is providing exceptional care to your clients and caregivers, consistently.
Healthcare professionals are not going to refer patients to you unless they can trust that you will take good care of them. If a referral partner refers someone to your agency, and it doesn’t work out, the value of both your reputations is reduced. On the other hand, if the referral has a successful outcome, the value of both parties’ reputation increases. Referral sources can sense this, even if it is often unconsciously!
Growing solid business partnerships is a marathon not a sprint, so take the time to build and communicate with purpose.
SMARTcare is happy to partner with your home care agency to provide innovative software solutions designed with your specific home care needs in mind to help you master this process. Contact us to find how we can help set your agency up for success in 2021 and beyond.