Tips and Best Practices for Successful Marketing to Referral Partners

By Lesly MarbanYour Bottom LineLeave a Comment

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Many skilled nursing facilities today are struggling to get noticed by referral partners.  Unfortunately, the days of pure relationship building with discharge planners and referral sources are long gone.  With changes to provider payment— readmission penalties, quality mandates, cost-reduction targets and risk-based contracts—hospitals and managed care organizations are now looking for real data to determine where patients are referred to.  You are a quality organization, but how do you keep the referrals coming?  How do you differentiate among your competitors?  As a marketer, applying the four P’s of marketing can really help you stand out.


The first of the four P’s of marketing is product. A product can be either a tangible good or an intangible service that fulfills a need such as skilled nursing care.  Regardless of the services you provide, it’s imperative that you have a clear grasp of exactly what your product is and what makes your facility unique before you can successfully market it.  Do you have specific capabilities such as managing bariatric patients?  Are your nurses specially trained in wound management or administering intravenous drugs?  Beefing up your capabilities and ensuring you can provide quality outcomes—whether it’s with respiratory patients, wound management, or physical therapy— can differentiate you among other providers in your community.


We know that in skilled care, you don’t set your pricing or reimbursement rates.  However, you do have some control over the mix of patients that you take care of in your facility.  Understanding your capabilities, assessing what type of patients you can take care of and properly documenting your ADLs will have a tremendous impact to your bottom line.


You have a superb facility (product) and you’ve built and exceled at taking care of specific patient populations; now it’s time to promote it.   Are you promoting the right data to your referral sources?  Health systems using preferred networks have developed criteria for selecting skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) using state health and safety reports and quality measures reported to Medicare. This includes how well nursing facilities prevent pressure injuries, manage pain and provide vaccines.  The ability to prove that you can help hospitals and managed care organizations sustain low readmission rates and capitalize on risk-based incentives is critical. Facts are your friends. Use your unique capabilities and data to promote your facility.  Having detailed data tracking clinical improvements along with total cost of care proves to hospitals and managed care organizations that you’re a good business partner.


Often you will hear marketers say that marketing is about putting the right product at the right price at the right place at the right time.  It’s critical, then, to evaluate how and where you are marketing your services for future referrals.  Ensure you are meeting with the right people in the hospital.  Many hospitals now employ population health and care transition managers; schedule time to meet with them and align common goals.  Also, consider your downstream partners, whether it’s assisted living or home health.  In bundled payments, skilled nursing may only be one component of the overall care of a patient.

Clearly defining your product, price, promotion and place must be considered when developing a successful strategy to win referrals.  In today’s narrowing networks, balancing these four elements is critical now more than ever in helping you stand apart in your market.

About the Author
Lesly Marban

Lesly Marban

Lesly Marban is the Chief Marketing Officer at Medline Industries, Inc. where she is responsible for overseeing and leading the marketing strategy and activities. Previously, Lesly served as the senior vice president of marketing for Post-Acute Care at Medline. In addition, Lesly directs and coordinates the interaction between 20 independently operating product divisions and 1,300+ person sales force. She has also worked with key industry leaders in developing training programs to help providers reduce hospital readmissions. Prior to Medline, Lesly worked at Baxter Healthcare where she held commercial and operational leadership roles. Lesly is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in Accounting, and has an MBA from DePaul University.

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