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Physician Offices Rarely See Differences Between Home Health Agencies

Home health, hospice and palliative care providers all have to play the same game, as far as getting in front of physicians to secure new referrals.

On their end, however, referring physicians often fail to see the differences between home health agencies and other in-home care providers, new research from senior care consulting firm Transcend Strategy Group suggests.

“We think these findings are extremely important,” Transcend Chief Strategy Officer Stan Massey told Home Health Care News. “Because different providers certainly aren’t all equal.”

To learn more about home health, hospice and palliative care referrals, Transcend surveyed 150 professionals working within different physician offices. Specific job titles included office managers, medical directors and referral coordinators, among others.

Overall, 81% of respondents said they see little to no differentiation between hospice, home health and palliative care providers, on average.

With home health, in particular, 19% of respondents said home health agencies were “all the same,” with 57% saying agencies varied slightly. Just 23% of physician office respondents said home health agencies “varied significantly.”

Transcend polled the respondents on agencies’ quality of care, services offered, responsiveness and reputation. The consulting firm also asked about communication and the “ease of working with” home health agencies.

“I mean, some level of quality clinical care is absolutely a necessity to stay in business, or you’re not going to get referrals,” Massey said. “However, there really are differences in the types of services and the types of nuances between providers.”

Physician office staff saw the least amount of differentiation between home health agencies when it came to “services offered,” according to the research. In other words, referral sources believed all agencies provided the same basic nursing and rehab services, despite the fact many agencies specialize in certain conditions and disease states.

While the findings come across as a negative for the industry, they also suggest there’s referral ground to be gained for agencies that can improve their marketing and communications efforts, Massey noted.

“This research opens huge opportunities for agencies that are successful in communicating or even defining what their differentiating factors are, being able to explain that to referring physician offices,” he said.

Further supporting that notion: Of the survey respondents, less than half of physician office staff said that they regularly refer to a specific home health provider. Yet 73% said that they frequently or regularly refer patients to a specialist.

To come across as specialists instead of generic home health providers, agencies should approach referral partners with data that strategically supports their clinical expertise, Massey explained.

“The metrics that agencies are currently using to measure patient performance,” he said. “Is there a way to further slice and dice that by condition or disease state, just to show this proven track record of how successful they are in meeting key metrics?”

In addition to the survey findings, Massey pointed out home health referral relationships remain strained due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, many physician offices, assisted living facilities and other traditional referral sources began closing their doors to outsiders. Home health agencies had started to rebuild many of those relationships, but then the delta variant caused some referral sources to restrict access again.

“It’s still a pain point. Agencies, I think, started to rebuild, at least until this delta variant came along,” Massey said. “Some of the facilities were starting to relax their policies. They might still ask people to wear masks to come into the facilities, but at least they were letting people start to come in again.”


This article was written by Robert Holly on July 29th, 2021 and can be found here. Please be sure to visit for more articles written by Robert and other quality contributors.