Developing a successful business or agency requires a calculated combination of strategic planning, marketing, networking, sales experience and market analysis to determine growth potential. On the marketing side of the business development equation, a good, mobile-friendly website is arguably one of the most important tools for business communication today. Websites serve as more than just business calling cards of the modern world; they are quite literally the first thing many customers see of a business and are where first impressions are made. They also can house loads of information and make it easy for potential customers to retrieve answers and learn about a company.
Furthermore, an interactive website is particularly important for home care agencies. As the use of print media for marketing continues to fall with the rise of digital marketing efforts, consumers are also turning to the internet to find the services they need — which includes searching for home health care. Oftentimes, if an agency cannot be found online, potential clients and referrals will move on to the next provider whose information is available at the click of their mouse. So, not only is it important to have a website, an agency must design the site to work on its behalf, providing convenience and ease to both referral sources and patients.
Know Your Referral Sources Before They’re Your Referral Sources
An agency’s success starts with a solid referral base, and the more agency leaders know about that base, the easier it will be to multiply and find more referral sources. Again, a website is the perfect place to build a foundation by collecting contact information for business development. Many agency sites use a “Contact Us” form for online visitors to fill out for referral tracking and future outreach. A contact management process allows companies to remain in regular communication with people and helps keep the agency top of mind with emails or newsletters. However, going beyond basic contact information and asking more questions, can mean the difference between just another email address and a potential referral source. When implementing a “Contact Us” page, ask referral sources for additional information such as:
- Is there a specialty service you provide that our patients might want to use?
- Do you have educational needs that one of our home care experts could fulfill?
- Is there a particular type of patient that you work with best?
- What is the most important item you look for when making a referral?
Also, create a separate section within the online contact form for direct inquiries from potential patients or family members and ask:
- Are there any physical limitations which require special assistance?
- Are there special dietary needs or restrictions?
- What is the current level of physical activity?
- Are there any special medical conditions?
And for each and every inquiry, ask:
- How did you hear about us?
Collecting answers to these simple questions, will help the intake process run smoothly. Just remember to keep it brief!
HIPAA regulations are strict, and they are becoming vigilant in making certain that companies are compliant. If you are not taking all the steps necessary to be compliant, expect an audit and expect to pay fines. It seems that in order to be truly HIPAA compliant with a website and the collection of information online, you will need:
- An in-house web server that is set up and locked down per federal guidelines
- Secure email hosting (best done in-house, as well)
- Processes, forms, compliance procedures, reporting and audit trails for all of the above
- Incident response processes should something bad happen
See these links for further information about the restrictions:
HIPAA 2010: HITECH Impact on Email and Web Outsourcing
Make Referrals Easy Anyway!
Doctors, discharge planners and rehab facilities are the biggest referral sources for home care agencies, and their time is precious. One way to have a website work in an agency’s favor is to educate as to how to make the referral process as simple and as easy as possible. Lay out the basics – what the referrer needs to do and what your agency does when they receive that referral, and beyond.
There are services that provide a link to an agency’s website that allows for online referrals that are HIPAA compliant. This will also provide an added value to the agency because the fewer barriers there are to doing business, the more apt referral sources will be to continue referring.
Essentially, a website defines a brand’s messaging, has the capacity to educate and engage, and can be the way a home care agency stands out in the highly competitive and crowded industry. Designing a functional website that is easily navigable, easy to use, and has relevant and up-to-date information on it will result in great marketing returns.