Establishing a Referral Network

Linking entities. Network, networking, social media, internet communication abstract. A small network connected to a larger network. in paper linked together by cotton with a black tint

Establishing a referral network is critical to the long-term success of DSMES services. Below are some tips for creating referral networks.17

Find a “referral champion.” Identify a provider in the community who refers people with diabetes to DSMES services and is willing to speak with other providers in the area about the benefits of referring.

Create promotional materials for the DSMES service, such as a website, brochures, handouts, quarterly newsletters, and social media posts.

  • Use these communications to educate and empower people with diabetes to ask their provider for a referral to DSMES.
  • See the Marketing and Promotion section for ideas.

Promote the service to health care facilities, such as local health clinics and hospitals, that are not providing DSMES.

Market the service to individual providers who treat people with diabetes, and provide resources to facilitate referral to the DSMES service (such as a checklist for referring people with diabetes or a link to a referral form).

  • Consider creating standing orders, care pathways, or workflows that the referring practice can adopt.
  • Identify and partner with registered dietitians, podiatrists, diabetes retinopathy specialists, endocrinologists, nephrologists, wound specialists, pharmacists, mental health providers, dentists, and others. Enlist their help in encouraging providers to refer people with diabetes to DSMES.
    • Although specialty providers may not make direct referrals, these providers can help increase interest in DSMES services.
  • Foster relationships with worksite wellness services.
  • Work with Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) for referral assistance. Many AAAs are accredited or recognized DSMES providers, but if not, they can recommend other DSMES services to their clients. AAAs also have the contacts to address barriers to participation, such as partnering to provide transportation to the DSMES service, if needed.

Identify additional community resources.

  • Consider engaging barber shops, beauty salons, faith-based organizations, YMCAs, or civic organizations. Resources describing ways to work in the community are provided in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases community partnerships tools. There are many ways to conduct community outreach and partner with community organizations:
    • Collaborate with local providers of services and education resources, both in local centers and through home visits.
    • Provide diabetes information through printed (such as mailed flyers or postcards) or digital media outlets.
    • Connect with physical activity programs or resources in the community.
    • Offer additional community support services, such as cooking classes.
    • Offer diabetes support groups.
    • Conduct community health fairs or diabetes expos.
    • Incorporate DSMES into non-classroom activities, such as exercise classes and supermarket tours.

The following is an additional resource for establishing a referral network:

Approaches to Promoting Referrals  [PDF – 589 KB]