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Referral Center Tip: Train Your Referral Coordinators to Drive Growth (Part 3)


In our last two newsletters, we covered tips to help drive growth through your referral center: treating every call as a referral, asking smart questions, holding onto the ball, and working with urgency. This last installment will focus onworking with urgency.  When it comes to Hospice, there is an obviously greater need to work with urgency, yet home health has its own nuances.

Darcey Trescone, Senior Manager at Simione, provides the example of a family member calling for information, and reveals that the patient is having a total knee replacement in a couple weeks. This situation doesn't immediately lend itself to urgency, right? “While it may not be urgent, it is very important to get the name of the hospital, the surgeon, and the date of surgery on that initial call,” Trescone says, “Then, it's important to get permission to follow up - and depending on your processes - get permission to work with the discharge planner regarding this patient. It's important to do all of this on the first call, as following up later reduces the urgency/need. The caller called you for a reason - they are worried about a family member.”

What you don't want to happen is for your call to “calm them to close the loop”, so that the surgery comes along and the discharge planner gives them a list of home care agencies for consideration. At that point, you are out of the loop and they will either:

  • Mistakenly pick a competitor thinking they are picking your agency,

  • Ask the discharge planner who he/she prefers, or

  • Pick the first one on the list or best sounding agency

“The bottom line is that you lost the referral even after having the path wide open several weeks before,” Trescone explains.  “If you had gathered the information on the initial call and you followed up with them, they are more likely to stay with you and appreciate your help in planning for a loved one’s needs.

“You calm them down on the initial call, and set things in motion to hold onto the referral through to admission,” she adds.

On the other hand, hospice needs revolve around a different planet. Due to the very nature of when your referral center gets called (both from the community or professional referral partners), hospice providers often times have a very limited amount of time to get patients on their service.

While it's up to the sales team to help referral partners see the benefit of referring earlier, it is important to make sure and work with urgency when physician, facility, or hospital referrals come in.

“Working with urgency gets patients on service quicker (helping the patient and family), while helping to reinforce the referral partner’s relationship with your agency. If they know they can count on your agency to act quickly and get their patients on service, they are more likely to use you again,” Trescone says.  

When it comes to community based/consumer calls, Trescone also emphasizes the importance of conveying urgency to the caller. ‘Many times, we hear from family members some form of "well, I'd like to wait until my brother (or some other family member) comes into town before making a decision". When we hear that, it's important to remember that we are the experts and how our service benefits patients and families. With that in mind, a good reply would be "I completely understand. What if we get your mom on service today, we can make a tremendous difference in getting your mom comfortable. If your brother comes to town and you don't want services any more, you can discontinue them at any time," Trecone explains.

The act of conveying urgency with confidence and compassion and to both callers and your internal team is very important to keep the flow of information, referrals, and admissions moving to boost your census and create value for patients and families.