How to Conduct a Productive In-service for Respiratory Referrals

OxygenIn working with referral partners, building relationships that the partners find valuable is the name of the game. Providers must establish themselves as the “go to” expert for physicians and referral partners to learn more about what types of medical equipment can help.

This especially holds true for oxygen providers, which deal with large patient bases with varying needs served by an equally wide array of respiratory equipment. Add to that the fact that respiratory providers must deal with a number of recent funding difficulties including the 9.5 reimbursement cut through MIPPA and the 36-month rental cap, and the importance of creating lasting, beneficial referral partner relationships is critical.

The key is to provide value to the relationship even when not working on a patient claim, and an effective way to accomplish that is through hosting in-services. While free lunch is nice, referral partners are really looking for answers. By offering insights and information that referral partner staff might not have, as well as through answering questions, a provider can make significant gains in creating and growing referral partner relationships.

Know the Audience

The first step in hosting an effective in-service is to know who will be attending before you go into the in-service. Will it be physicians, the nursing staff, or other members of the team?

“You have to know because you have to prepare differently based on whether or not it’s going to be clinical or non-clinical staff,” says David Lyman, BA, RRT, RCP, regional manager of clinical sales for CornerStone Medical Services, a multi-location HME and respiratory providers headquartered in Troy, Ohio.

If the staff is clinical, then the HME sales professional can engage in a more technical conversation about the cardiopulmonary system, or patients’ disease states. But if it is for other non-clinical staff, the discussion will need to more “generic.”

Present a Range of Solutions

“You have to be able to discuss he different modalities you’re going to bring to the patient,” Lyman says. “What you organizations, such as oxygen concentrators, conserving devices, or self-fill devices, and what types of patients would benefit from each type of modality of oxygen.”

But providing a range of solutions and describing how they fit patient needs, the provider can help the referral better understand which solution best fits each patient’s lifestyle, as well as their clinical requirements. This can come as a welcome clarification from healthcare professionals who are constantly hearing that each solution they see is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

This helps the provider establish itself as a sort of expert consultant the referral partner can rely on for straight information in addition to solutions.

Collect Feedback

To ensure that your in-services are working, solicit some feedback from the attendees. However, keep the process simple and do it on-site, because otherwise you might not get it later on given your partners’ hectic schedules.

“We just have five simple questions on a sheet of paper,” Lyman says. “What would they like to see; was the material presented clearly; was the presenter prepared; did we answer all of your questions; and is there anything further you’d like to learn or other in-services you would like us to provide.”

Be Flexible, Be Honest

Sometimes what the HME sales professional expects the referral partner wants to learn is not what they actually want to hear. So be prepared to change things up and smoothly adapt to the partner’s information needs.

“A good in-service really consists of listening to what the office really needs,” Lyman says. “And it might be that you’re not prepared at that time to answer some of those questions, which is not such a bad thing, because then you have an opportunity to come back in and answer their questions, or bring a specialist if you’re not clinical yourself.”

As any good sales professional knows, any opportunity to leave the door open for future follow up is the path to moving a prospective client through the sales process. Besides, being honest about not knowing something reinforces that reputation as a source of straight information.

“I think that one of the biggest mistakes we make in our industry is we feel need to answer questions right at that time, and we really shouldn’t,” Lyman says. “ … Say you don’t know and you’d really like to come back to discuss it. Always leave that in-service with a reason to come back.”

Points to take away:

  • In-services are a crucial element in driving long-lasting referral partner relationships.
  • A productive in-service starts by anticipating attendee’s information needs and the questions they will ask.
  • That said, the provider must be fl exible and respond to unanticipated shifts in the partner’s information needs.
  • Don’t fear not having an answer. This provides a follow-up opportunity.

Learn More:

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

HME Business Podcast