Home Care Agencies: Use Person-Centered Care to Build Your Referral Base

Laurie Renzulli
Updated November 3, 2023
Key Takeaways

Person-centered care can be an important differentiator for your home care agency. To get noticed by busy referral sources, however, you also need to showcase what makes your person-centered care preferred over other providers’. Spotlighting your approach and specific person-centered tools can make you memorable and help build your referral base. Joining a quality, person-centered care provider network can also raise your visibility.


Getting on referrers’ short lists

What are your person-centered "tools"?

Taking the next step

home care provider and older woman selfieWouldn’t it be great if you could get on the short lists of some of the leading sources for home care referrals, including short-term rehabilitation centers, assisted livings, and front office staff in physician offices? Wouldn’t it be even better if something about your home care agency made you stand out from the others on those lists?

Providing person-centered care can help you achieve both. However, offering person-centered care in and of itself isn’t enough to get you noticed. It is extremely difficult to get the attention of busy referral sources. And because “person-centered care” can be loosely defined, those decision makers may have a hard time distinguishing one person-centered care provider from another. To truly stand out, the business-savvy home care agency will showcase their person-centered care, both the fact that they offer it and what makes their person-centered care preferred over their competitors’.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to achieve this to cultivate referrals, both from previous clients and through professional recommendations.

Getting on referrers’ short lists

In any market, it can be hard to tell why one home care provider is better than the next. I’ve met with many a physician who couldn’t tell me why their patient was receiving care from one provider and not another. If community physicians and their staffs can’t tell how providers differ, imagine how hard it must be for families and referral source decision makers to do the same.

In my decades working in home care, I have seen referrers simply send families lists of every home care provider in a given ZIP code. Others, however, have developed their own curated short lists of home care providers they have come to trust.

What are those decision makers looking for? For the most part, the same things clients and families are looking for—integrity, engagement, compassion, empathy, and above-and-beyond service.

In my experience, it has always come down to four key hallmarks of the person-centered care approach:

Consistent safety reputation, data, and outcomes

Consistent safety reputation, data, and outcomes, so the clients they are referring are far less likely to wind up back in rehab or the hospital within 30, 60, or 90 days. Referral sources will want to know what you do to establish and continuously verify safety and fall prevention, such as offering staff training in the National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) for the Home Care Program.

Partnering with clients and their families and neighbors

Partnering with clients and their families and neighbors to keep them engaged in their care, which can lead to better outcomes. Some research shows that increased engagement in the transition from hospital to home has been associated with lower rehospitalization rates, greater confidence in self-management, and greater knowledge about warning signs of a worsening health condition.

A dignified intake process

A dignified intake process that demonstrates your compassion. How thoughtfully do you capture client goals, preferences, and values? Details matter. For example, how do they like to start their day? What foods should you stock the pantry with? Which holidays are important and how do they like to celebrate? What’s their favorite music? What hobbies do they enjoy, and how can you help them continue to enjoy them?

Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile to make the aging journey dignified, connected, and fulfilling. Bringing in art or music therapy, Facetiming with grandkids, making sure that weekly game of bridge can continue … the distance between everyday care and person-centered care is shorter than you think. Checking back in with the referral source after the first month or so to let them know how the client is doing also speaks volumes about your integrity and makes you memorable to referral decision makers.

These referrer- and client-pleasing aspects of person-centered care can help generate referrals from current clients as well as professionals in the field, ultimately landing you on those short lists of home care providers. But don’t stop there.

Whether in your marketing materials, web site, or face-to-face meetings, also spotlight the tools you use that separate you from the competition.

What are your person-centered care “tools”?

Never assume professional referrers know what you mean when you say, “person-centered care.” Give them some of the specifics you employ that contribute to dignified, compassionate, and empathetic care. Like the hallmarks above, these tools can also make you memorable to current clients and families who may recommend you to others as a result.

Here’s a brief checklist:

  • A detailed person-centered care intake form. Does it cover the client’s goals, preferences, and values—the beliefs they hold dear? What would make for a great day? What don’t they like?

  • Extras. Simple touches, such as a large-print paper calendar for marking special days (posted by the client’s bedside), a pre-populated grocery list, or a radio pre-set with favorite stations not only make life easier, they’re signs of a provider who cares.

  • Continued training. Spotlight how often your staff receives training in safety and person-centered care, and the comprehensiveness of that training.

  • Client and staff surveys. Measure the quality of your person-centered care by regularly checking in with your clients and staff. Collecting objective data shows your commitment not just to quality care but to holding yourself accountable.

  • Great notes and communication. Thorough notetaking can alert referral sources to warning signs of possible health problems and highlight your attention to clients’ overall well-being. Especially when caring for clients in the home, assisted living, and independent living, such a holistic approach is critical for continuity of care. It also reassures referral sources that your caregivers will serve as eyes and ears—for them and for families in the care community.

Getting on and staying on referrers’ curated lists and cultivating in-field referrals really comes down to showcasing your person-centered care, both your approach and your tools. You could also increase your visibility by joining a network of select long-term care providers, such as the CareScout Quality Network.

CareScout’s network essentially shines a spotlight on a curated list of long-term care providers who have demonstrated a commitment to person-centered care, making it easier for care seekers to find quality care options. CareScout Quality Network providers meet a high bar, so joining such a network becomes an additional feather in your cap you can point to.

Taking the next step

When thinking about how to showcase your person-centered care to community providers, consider what matters to them. Check their web sites. What are they proudest of? Look into how they define person-centered care. Then show how your approach and tools align with theirs and complement the efforts they value. Make it clear that you care about and invest in those same values as well.

Remember that these decision-makers see you as an extension of their brand. If you make them look good, you’ll look good. They’ll be happy having a partner they can trust. You’ll be happy as they become an amazing referral source for you. Best of all, your clients will be happy receiving dignified, compassionate, person-centered care. Everyone wins.

1Coleman EA, Smith JD, Frank JC, et al. Preparing patients and caregivers to participate in care delivered across settings: The Care Transitions Intervention. J Am Geriatr Soc 2004; 52: 1817–1825.

Laurie Renzulli

Laurie RenzulliMBA

Laurie is a health care business development executive with a passion for identifying top quality providers and helping them differentiate in a complex post-acute market. She has helped businesses grow in both the ind

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