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 have conversations 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 accounts.

  • Use these forms of communication 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 the referral to the DSMES service (such as the algorithm for referring people with diabetes, or a link to a referral form).

  • Consider creating standing orders, care pathways, or workflow algorithms 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 for referral assistance. The AoA Diabetes Self-Management Toolkit [PDF – 642 KB] shows how Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) can collaborate to provide the infrastructure necessary to support an accredited or recognized DSMES service. Many AAAs are accredited/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 contained in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Community Partnerships tools. There are many ways to conduct community outreach and partner with community organizations:
    • Collaborate with local providers, home care, and community education resources.
    • Provide diabetes information via local access television.
    • Refer to physical activity resources in the community.
    • Offer additional community support services, such as cooking classes.
    • Offer diabetes support groups.
    • Conduct community health fairs and/or diabetes expos.
    • Incorporate DSMES into non-classroom activities, such as exercise classes and supermarket tours.

The following are additional resources for establishing a referral network:

Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists: Tips for Reaching Prescribers [PDF – 339 KB]:
This guide covers how to build contacts, maintain communication, and more.

Approaches to Promoting Referrals [PDF – 589 KB]:
This document describes the approaches of four states and one city to increase referrals to DSMES services and CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs operating under the framework of the National Diabetes Prevention Program.