Serving the home health, home care and hospice industry since 1999.

by Darcey Trescone, RN, BSN

All too frequently, physicians, case managers, nurses, and even office staff at potential home health and hospice referral sources will dodge those providers' marketers. The thought process of these referral sources is often, "I know you want a referral and I don't have any to give you so there is no reason to talk to you today." That logic means that person, perhaps the entire office, is not a real referral "partner" in the continuum of care.

If a referral source is welcoming to your marketer but the business they send you is dependent on doughnuts and lunches, that is not a real "partner" either. Real partners, real referral sources, will become loyal to the home health and hospice providers that demonstrate their own ability to partner in overcoming the challenges physicians and hospitals face today. Improved patient outcomes and lower hospital readmission rates become critical in a value-based care world. They need a partner that supports those goals more than they need doughnuts.

The name of the game is "Relationship Building" and it starts with identifying the right referral sources to partner with. Data to better understand your local market dynamics is available. Yes, it does have a price tag but it can be worth every penny if you utilize it strategically.

Understand your market opportunities with data by referral source type

Diversification of referral source types is important to the growth and value of your agency. For example, if only hospitals or facilities are providing you with referrals you may be catching patients later in their disease process which could make it harder to improve outcomes, keep costs down and prevent hospitalizations. In addition, if only two or three physician practices are supplying you with referrals and one or more of these practices get bought or closes, your census will drop precipitously, causing you to struggle to cover operational costs.

Data are available that show how patients move across the continuum of care, by referral source type, and which providers, by type, are getting those referrals. If you are going to target a specific hospital you can get access to data that show the volume of patients discharged to each referral source type and the average readmission rate after referral. Some of the data also support getting a list of who the providers are that got the business and what their average readmission rate is. Your strategy here is to build relationships at the hospital level and with each provider they are referring patients to that could benefit from your services.

Turn a Referral Source into a Referral Partner

Once your marketers know who they should focus on in their territory they need to be trained how to add value to these referral sources. Many books have been written on relationship-focused sales/marketing techniques. This approach works very well in our industry.

It starts with understanding the dynamics and challenges the referral source is dealing with. Only when the marketer gathers the information about these challenges can they present solutions (services) to the referral source that will help. If the referral source sees value in the services, they will work with your organization and refer. Over time, as your agency continues to deliver on the services in the manner expected and your marketers continue to present solutions that help overcome challenges, you will convert your referral source to a referral partner. 

Home health and hospice referral sources need to learn from your marketing efforts whether you will add value to their daily practice and roles. You must consider with whom your people are spending time, what are their top-of-mind pain points, and what might be important to them about your agency's services. Only when they see the value of your home health or hospice services to their patients and their practice do they become an actual referral "partner."


Darcey Trescone is a Healthcare IS and Business Development Consultant in the Post-Acute Healthcare Market with a strong background working with both providers and vendors specific to Home Care and Hospice. She has worked as a home health nurse and held senior operational, product management and business development positions with various post-acute software firms, where her responsibilities included new and existing market penetration, customer retention and oversight of teams across the U.S., Canada and Australia. She can be reached at


©2019 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.