The fuel that feeds the home medical equipment engine is referral development and retention. Referrals direct patients and consumers to HME businesses. Business must develop programs, services and products to engage referrals and deliver on brand promises.
Businesses can encourage health professional referrals, commercial referrals and consumer referrals with strategies that might include outside and inside sales people, advertising and promotions, social media, websites and more.
No two firms are alike in how they encourage referrals. But the common denominator in getting and keeping referrals is building a relationship. From the cold call to the long-time connection, referrals require constant care and feeding. Here is how three top providers do it:
1. No more lunches—just comprehensive programs
Advanced Home Care business mix
Managed Care/HME Contracts: 40 percent
Infusion/Respiratory: 30–40 percent
Medicare/Medicaid: 12–15 percent
Private/Retail Pay: 5 percent
Advanced Home Care (AHC) of Greensboro, N.C, is a hospital-affiliated, nonprofit firm that provides home health, HME, infusion and respiratory services to more than 30,000 patients throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. But the AHC does not assume that being hospital-affiliated guarantees referrals.
AHC has a robust, sophisticated sales and marketing team to encourage referrals. Outside sales people are called “transition to home specialists.” They implement a comprehensive, targeted sales strategy developed by marketing professionals for calls on health professionals, health systems and more.
“It starts with our marketing product line leaders,” said Kim Brummett, vice president, contracting and reimbursement. Product lines include areas such as negative pressure wound therapy, respiratory and specialty wound care. These leaders take hands-on responsibility for their areas.
“They develop complete programs, which include product line details, formulary, process, support tools,” Brummett said. “These programs may also include educational programs with CEUs for nursing and pharmacy professionals. The product line leaders then train the sales personnel on the programs and tools to use on calls to practice groups, payers, etc.”
But they don’t do lunches, Brummett said. “Our sales personnel have a regular call plan, and their focus is education, the patient and outcomes. Their incentive plan is based on the product line programs. We don’t use customer relationship management software but maintain an extensive contact database.”
AHC has a compelling story to tell on a cold call: size, depth, clinical outcomes, clinical personnel and community involvement. The company has been active in the community since its founding and provides community rooms and support for a large charitable golf tournament. But like every firm, AHC cannot afford to take the market for granted with the growing reach of competitive bidding. A potential 32 percent cut is tough to take.
More than two years ago, AHC launched its commercial accounts team. The manager and sales team have developed different revenue populations to include skilled nursing, doctor offices, dentists, group living, juvenile and adult jails and EMT groups.
“We have thousands and thousands of referral touch-points, but we can’t afford to become complacent,’’ Brummett said. “Our focus is now on the whole patient and to communicate to referral entities that we can support the patient and whole family with preventative, recuperative, rehabilitative and palliative care.”
2. Making calls outside your box
Black Bear Medical business mix
Complex Rehab: 48 percent
Supplies: 22 percent
Retail: 23 percent
HME: 7 percent