Setting Up Referral Pathways
One key to the success of a driving program is building a reliable, sustainable, and broad-based network of referral sources.
Many of today’s successful driving programs recommend that new programs spend substantial time building that network before opening their doors for business. Even for most established programs, staff must do thoughtful, cost-effective, continuous marketing to various audiences in the community. Successful strategies rely, in part, not only on explaining what you do but also on explaining why and how older driver safety and community mobility affect your community. See the Program Development Resource Toolkit if you are considering setting up a program.
Here are some tips—starting points—for building referral pathways to your driving program. If you know of other successful strategies, please share them with your colleagues in the online discussion group Accessing the Community: Driving.
Pull Together Basic Information
- Create a written description or fact sheet summarizing your services and other community-based resources.
- Describe the range of services your program offers. Do you conduct clinical driving assessments and refer clients to other full-service driving programs? Does your program offer a full range of clinical and behind-the-wheel assessments as well as on-road and clinical remediation services?
- Inventory other education programs in your community, such as AARP’s Safe Driving Program or other driving evaluation programs in your area. What services do they offer (specify programs with occupational therapy)?
- Describe the reporting laws in your area and the roles of physicians (see PDF file, AMA's Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers) and occupational therapists in reporting and restricting driving. What is the role of your state’s Medical Review Board? If your client referral base is from multiple states, you must understand the rules for each state, as they can vary.
Educate the Therapy Staff in Your Facility
- Conduct focused discussion groups. Invite staff from area driving and therapy programs to meet. Explore all of the ways older drivers can access various services in your driving program, effective ways to disseminate information to clients and staff, and the ways staff can easily refer clients to your program.
- Define your program and your community’s resource network.
Conduct Community-Based Education With Clients and Potential Professional Referral Sources
- Meet with physician and managed care groups to discuss the impact of driving on quality of life and activities of daily living.
- Meet with consumer support groups that represent the concerns and needs of individuals with particular diseases or conditions (e.g., stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease).
Establish Relationships With Print and Broadcast Media
- Serve as a credible, trustworthy, available information resource to comment on breaking news stories about older drivers and other community mobility issues.
- Contact local cable TV and radio channels that have community public events shows. Educate show producers about the impact of older driver safety and community mobility issues on the quality of life in your community.
Create Marketing Handouts
- Consider distributing items such as pens, key chains, sticky notes, and magnets with your referral information. Include your program’s phone number and Web address on the items.
- Order AOTA’s older driver brochure, which has space on the back to print your program’s name and contact information. You can download the brochure here.
Present at Conferences and Meetings
- Consider presenting at local, county, or state health care associations such as the state medical association, county case manager’s group, local and state units on aging, and state occupational therapy association.
Do Targeted Mailings
- Mail brochures and other materials to potential referral sources such as dentists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, geriatricians, neurologists, orthopedists, family practitioners, psychologists, neuropsychologists, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers, transitional head injury programs, and area agencies on aging.
- Include in your mailing, in addition to your program’s fact sheet, one or more of the following items:
Evaluate the Impact of Your Marketing Efforts
- Ensure that your time and other resources are well used.
- Ask clients how they heard about your program and why they decided to use your services.