If you can prove a high level of satisfaction by patients a physician or care provider has referred to you, you will have a huge advantage in getting future referrals.

By Susan Saldibar

Referrals are critical to senior living communities. They come from physician networks, ACOs, hospitals, respite/rehab centers, in-home care providers and other referring organizations. As a rule, referrals are not given lightly. With their own reputations are on the line, the referrers will typically keep several senior communities on their lists, in case one missteps or shows signs of lowering their standards.

We spoke recently with Michael Johnson, Vice President of Research for ServiceTrac a Senior Housing Forum Partner, who has some excellent suggestions for communities who want to stay on top of those referral lists. According to Michael, “If you can actually prove that a high level of satisfaction is being experienced by those patients a physician or care provider has already referred to you, you will have a huge advantage over others in getting future referrals.”

The Survey: Your New Power Tool

A powerful way to capture and amplify the positive voices within your community is by sharing your surveys. Many senior living communities do so, but only to a limited extent. Michael points out that, with today’s technology and some creative thinking, senior communities can make far better use of their survey process and the results.

“Surveys no longer need to be static ‘input-output’ questionnaires with generic results,” explains Michael. “We can build upon those surveys by adding data from a variety of sources. Survey results can be used to strategically position your community as one that will provide a natural extension of the high quality services provided by the referring organization or physician,” says Michael. “Most senior living communities attempt to make that case with generalized survey results that only go half the distance.”

Michael recommends that you start by letting your referring organization or physician know that you are conducting a survey of their past referred residents. This, in and of itself, sends a message that you are serious about the satisfaction of their referrals.

Create a Survey Centric to Their Referral Patients’ Needs

Your survey platform should allow you to quickly identify these residents by the referring doctor or group. Then, Michael suggests the following four integrated actions:

  1. Ask the referrer what they would like to see covered in the survey and make sure you include those questions.

  2. Ensure that your survey ‘speaks the language’ of the referring organization by using terms and nomenclature that are compatible with their own.

  3. Conduct your survey and follow up session to clarify results.

  4. Sort and separate the residents from your identified referrer group.

  5. Present the survey results in a meeting with the executive director.

You can further segregate the survey results by demographics or other patient characteristics that, if your survey platform is up to the task, can be imported directly from the referrer’s own practice management system. Your results will be more meaningful.

Even more meaningful is being able to sort your survey results down to the ACO, referring hospital or physician. That way you can approach the results with razor acuity and provide data that is useful outside your organization. Only ServiceTrac offers this degree of granularity and indexing.  

Be Truthful, Be Transparent

“Don’t just share the good stuff,” Michael urges. “If your survey shows an issue which was taken care of to the satisfaction of the resident, it will demonstrate your responsiveness as well as the transparency of your community. In other words, you aren’t trying to hide anything.”

The benefits cut across many areas, according to Michael. You will be demonstrating that your senior community:

  • Cares about your residents and values their input.

  • Is committed to continuously improving.

  • Can “speak the language” of the referrer with results that reflect many of their same quality measurements.

  • Is more like a partner and less like any other senior community.

  • Can be trusted with their patients now, and in the future.

“This is huge in a world where healthcare and senior living are much more connected,” says Michael. “The desire is there. Using customized surveys in this way will cement the relationship in a way that can help keep your community at the top of every referral list,” he adds.

For more information: Satisfaction Research.