3 Ways the pandemic impacted referral source expectations

3 Ways the pandemic impacted referral source expectations

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By: Melissa Kozak, RN, BSN, President & Co-Founder, CitusHealth

In the highly competitive market of home infusion, developing long-term referral partnerships is no easy feat. For local and regional pharmacies in particular, the challenge is always how to compete with the larger, national competition. The smart pharmacies realize that while they can’t compete on size, they can compete on service. How can smaller home infusion pharmacies stand out among their much larger competitors?

To answer that, we must first have a better understanding of the shift happening in the industry, mainly due to the pandemic and the accelerated use of technology to work remotely. Here are three ways COVID-19 has affected the expectations of referral sources and how meeting those expectations can set your pharmacy apart from the rest.

1. Referral sources expect fast admissions.
When referral partners know the home infusion provider can get a patient started as quickly as possible—faster than the other guy—they will be more likely to choose that pharmacy. This becomes a race of collecting information from the patient, the payor, and the physician quickly, then disseminating it, processing it, and getting that patient to the start of care seamlessly.

This can be a difficult task due to limited permissions in acute care facilities because of pandemic protocols. And with most pharmacy staff limited to communicating with email and phone, start of care tends to take time. With the right technology, communication is seamless, documentation and signatures can happen electronically, and patients can get processed quicker than ever before.

2. Referral sources expect more visibility into patient care.
Digital solutions adopted during the pandemic out of necessity to provide care remotely gave referral sources a peek into what more visibility could do for the care continuum. When referral partners can see that patients are doing better and have better outcomes under one pharmacy’s care compared to competitors, that will obviously factor into their decision for choosing a provider.

Pharmacies can achieve this with outcomes data collected directly from the patient. When a digital platform allows patients to input information like tolerance to therapy, side effects, etc., it saves staff time collecting that data and shows referral sources whether pharmacies are staying compliant and meeting patient expectations. That information gets back to the discharge planner, giving patients a voice in their care and giving referral partners more visibility.

3. Referral sources expect interoperability.
When referral partners experience truly connected care with pharmacies, it’s unlikely they’ll end the partnership. Like telehealth and the rise of consumerism in healthcare, the pandemic has served as an accelerant to existing interoperability trends. Fax and paper-based workflows were no longer working solutions when providers were pushed away from their normal settings of care. Interoperable solutions were critical to serving patients during COVID-19, and the efficiency and convenience of those technologies have now set the bar for expectations moving forward.

These growing expectations align with data. According to a joint study by ResMed and Porter Research, a staggering 74% of referral sources in 2020 said they would switch to a new post-acute care provider if that organization was able to accept electronic referrals and interoperate with them effectively. This is up from 60% in 2019.

Strengthening referral relationships doesn’t stop with meeting these three expectations. Lean into conversations with your partners regarding their discharge and care-at-home models and how your pharmacy can play a bigger part. Schedule a demo to see for yourself how CitusHealth can help home infusion pharmacies exceed referral expectations and build long-term partnerships.


Melissa Kozak
Melissa Kozak
RN, BSN, Co-Founder, President, CitusHealth

As a registered nurse, Melissa has a deep understanding of the post-acute industry. Her extensive clinical care and operational insight led her to become the visionary entrepreneur she is today. With CitusHealth, she’s created our industry’s first end-to-end digital health collaboration platform to solve the complexities of managing post-acute continuum of care and patient and family engagement challenges.