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While people working in hospice tend to be altruistic, the hospice industry is hyper-competitive. Our hospice & palliative experts provide advice & insights on how small & mid-size agencies can get more referrals. This is especially important when competing against national enterprise level agencies and large vertically integrated health care networks.

5 Tips to Get More Referrals

1. Treat your sales team like a hospice patient. Do an assessment and then create a plan

The 1st step in the assessment is checking where most of your referrals come from. The 80/20 rule, also known as the “Pareto Principle” named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, tells us that 80% of results, in this case referrals, comes from 20% of a cause, referral sources.

What to do:

A. Review the sales team members activities and referral sources. Are they maximizing their time and energies on the 20% or the 80%? The famous criminal Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks, to which he replied: Because that’s where the money is.

Educate sales staff to focus on ‘where the money is’. As they set their call schedule and events such as CEUs, in-services etc., they must always ask, or be asked “Is this task in the top 20 percent or in the bottom 80 percent?” Just because resources can be spent doesn’t mean they should. The 80/20 rule will not only generate referrals, but will also conserve time, energy, and resources.

B. Create a work-back plan for each member of the sales team. Don’t start with where they are and what to do tomorrow, next week, next month. Start with where you want them to be in a year from now and work back month by month with what needs to have happened in each month to have achieved the 1 year goal.

C. Show your math! Make sure the numbers you want your sales team members to hit is reasonable. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to create unrealistic expectations. Even worse, holding people accountable for not meeting unrealistic expectations when the numbers were simply pulled out of a hat and are based on the desire to get a bonus rather than on actual data.

Unreasonable expectations are a fast track to creating unmotivated and frustrated employees. If you’re going to create a quota and a work-back plan, show them where the numbers come from and how & why they’re achievable.

Not every salesperson can or will be a superstar. Reasonable numbers should be based on what is realistically achievable, not on the numbers from your best performer, or what happened in your best month ever.

2. Make it as easy as possible for the referral source and for the patient/family

What to do:

A. Examine what your intake workflow looks like. Does your EMR let your intake team get started with just a name & a way to connect or do you need a face sheet, h&p, and order or more before you can move forward?

Check out how Hospice Tools handles referrals; letting you create a medical record chart and have your team get started with just a patient name:

Health care can be a messy demanding business. If you’re rigid or stuck using cumbersome legacy tools which will delay getting critical services to a patient until every i is dotted and t crossed, the referral source will find someone who is less of a hassle to deal with.

B. If a patient is rejected from hospice care, let your referral source know and let them know why.

C. If your agency does electronic consents, make sure your consent liaison has a paper version with them as well. Many people, especially the elderly or those severely ill, struggle with reading small print on a screen, or simply feel more comfortable working with paper. Or will sign electronically but want a paper version left behind so they or a family member can read later or simply to have to file for their records. Remember, it’s not just about what procedure you want for your agency, its about what the patient wants.

3. Don’t just tell referral sources how hospice benefits them and the patients, show them!

What to do:

A. If you do an event with a patient, send or better yet bring a video or pictures of the event to your referral source.

B. Prepare graphs on a quarterly basis that show the x number of patients they referred equals y number of re-admissions that did not occur and z number of infections that did not occur. The statistics are out there. Create a template and generating these reports can be a virtually automatic process that requires minimal effort.

Note: Do not use tables and bullet points and text. This presentation should be a simple PDF with pretty graphs that can be emailed or better yet, printed on quality paper, put into a branded folder, and dropped off by the referral source.

4. Be professional

What to do:

A. If your sales team spends money on donuts for example, when do they drop them off? Stopping by with donuts and coffee at 7 am is professional. At 10 am it can come off as less so, or even worse, it can feel unseemly.

B. Make sure your team is being consultative. They need to know which patients are in the facility or came from that referral source. They need to stay current with what’s happening with a referral/patient at every stage and be prepared to answer questions when they visit that referral source.

It’s fine to say I don’t know and I’ll get back to you, but it’s better to know. And it’s even better to have that accurate and comprehensive information at your fingertips all the time.

One of the great benefits of having an EMR with fully functional mobile apps is when a team member is in a facility, they don’t have to borrow a computer or call the office. Its not 1980! Your team, from sales through clinicians, should have access to the patients charts at their fingertips!

Access to critical information cannot be stressed enough. It’s why Hospice Tools has fully functional native mobile apps that work on tablets and phones for Android & Apple devices. Check them out here:

C. A consultative approach to selling also means having a core competency. Explore the idea of assigning reps based on referral types and the reps knowledge and expertise rather than by geographic territory. Working with doctors at a cancer clinic is different than social workers in a SNF is different than an ER nurse at a hospital.

D. Make sure your website works. Check links. Check the Facebook and LinkedIn icon links on your site. Test your website forms. Make sure the page load speed is where it should be. Your referral sources will check it out at some point. It’s OK if your site is not fancy. It’s not OK if things don’t work right. Remember, trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.

5. Be grateful. Show appreciation

What to do:

A. Hospice is a hyper-competitive industry. Your agency is not doing the referral source a favor by taking the referral. They have options. When you get a referral acknowledge the referral was received & update the source as to the progress of the referral.

B. Continue to update the referral source through the life and discharge/death of the patient.

C. Say thank you. Decide based on time (quarterly, bi-annually, annually)  to send or better yet, have the sales team member visit and drop off a thank you note.

D. Have the patient/family send a note as well. Provide them a pre-stamped envelope and pre-addressed with the referral source’s / referring physician’s information. Have a prepared thank you card they can add to or simply sign. Let the patient/family know that if they think you’re doing a good job you’d like to send the referral source a thank you note for allowing your agency to provide care. Even better, offer to mail it to the source for them, this way you can both uncover if the patient/family are satisfied with the decision to have your agency provide care and ensure the source receives the thank you note from the patient/family.


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