How to Find and Win the Right Referral Partners in Home Health

As the health system continues to move toward managed care and value-based purchasing, home health agencies are becoming an increasingly important partner along the continuum of care. Across the industry, data has played a big role in securing preferred partnerships for home health agencies with other types of providers.

Home health and home care have a lot of options for referral sources as patients move from post-acute facilities back into their homes for care. However, not all referral sources should be treated equally, and becoming a preferred provider of referral sources is easier said than done.

Marvin Javellana, CEO of Illinois-Based Better Care Home Health Inc., has focused his efforts on being a preferred provider for several years. As an early adapter of the electronic medical records software from Axxess, Javellana was able to capture the data his company needed to present a compelling and data-driven argument to prospective partners.

“We started [this process] a long time ago,” Javellana told Home Health Care News. “We knew it was going to be data driven. So, we made sure that we could create that data and strengthened our clinical staff. It took at least a year to a year-and-half to get that data together with the help of our EMR.”

Better Care Home Health is currently a preferred partner with hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and a managed care insurance company. About 70% of his business comes from these sources and the relationships with providers he has built over the years, Javellana estimated. His strength came from the health outcomes that could be quantified with EMR data and presented to potential referral partners.

“There is no magic bullet to how to survive in this industry,” Javellana said. “If you develop a strong clinical team and are able to get that data the strong clinical team is able to produce, then you’re utilizing your EMR to its full potential. Then you can present that and paint a picture of what you do to prospective referral sources.”

Building a Case for Partners

As CEO, Javellana did the bulk of the work for forming his referrals partnerships. One of the biggest drivers of his preferred partnerships came from finding a patient niche. In the case of Better Care Home Health, it was taking on the highest acuity patients once they left the hospital. With strong data to back up better health outcomes for patients, Better Care Home Health found success working with hospital sources. His advice to other agencies is to find their niche and work with providers with that patient base.

“They need to know what their core competency is,” Javellana said. “What are they strong at? Are they strong in wound care, in heart failure? Focus on that. That’s a door opener. That’s what we did. We had a very strong critical care team that could handle high acute patients. So we focused on those.”

While there are many ways to cultivate strong relationships with other health care providers, there are some other things home health and home care agencies can do beyond practicing within a specific niche to develop partnerships and maximize their revenue.

On the private duty side, there are many advantages for having a dedicated sales team for increasing referral sources, according to Home Care Pulse’s annual private duty benchmarking study. The difference in revenue for a company that had a sales representative compared to one that didn’t in 2014 was nearly $500,000, the study found.

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Once referral sources have been established, home health agencies need to manage new patient bases and ensure they continue to grow. Becoming a partner is just the beginning of the real challenge, says Javellana.

“The challenge when you are getting these partnerships and when you are also trying to prove to this would-be-partner that you’re worthy of being a partner for the long haul,” Javellana said. “The biggest challenge is growth. That is what we are focusing on right now.”

Written by Amy Baxter